EXCLUSIVE:  Rep. Sheila Butt:  Bill Focuses On The Success of Our Students

Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) told The Tennessee Star in an exclusive interview on Capitol Hill that HB 617, a bill she has sponsored in the current session of the Tennessee General Assembly, will improve options for high school testing in math and English language arts.

“HB 617 is a bill which would allow local school districts to have the option of using the ACT or the SAT suite of testing in lieu of the end of course test, the TNReady test and the TCAP test, in the State of Tennessee,” Butt told The Star’s Laura Baigert.

“This is a bill that focuses on the success of our students and this is a tried and true measurement of college readiness and college success.  And all of our districts should have the option of being able to use these tests for their students,” she added.

“Local Education Agencies – As introduced, authorizes LEAs to use the ACT, ACT Aspire, or SAT suites of standardized assessments instead of the TCAP, TNReady, and end-of-course exams to test the subjects of math and English language arts for grades nine through 12,” the Tennessee General Assembly website says of HB 617 (introduced in the Senate as SB 1051).

“Now this legislation says this is applicable to high schools only, so that would be grades 9 through 12.  I’ve gotten lots of letters about this.  I’ve gotten people across the state who are writing me things,” Butt said.

You can watch the full video interview here:

“Let me share something with you.  This is from a principal and a father of three.  He is a principal at one of our STEM schools,” Butt told The Star.

Here is what that principal told Rep. Butt:

This week I was finally able to put a draft together of the testing schedule for the Tennessee end of course exams.  These exams, which have had no previous connection to improvement on the state SAT, are not proven to make any impact on future ACT scores.

As for the time it takes to test our students, the current system for this year has resulted in me creating a test schedule where we have literally 15 days of testing.  Three weeks for state tests.

Representative Butt, thank you for introducing House Bill 617 which will allow schools to use ACT and ACT Aspire tests in lieu of the TCAP, TNReady or end of course testing.

I would highly recommend that you support this bill and get others in your county to support this bill.  I have been a principal in Tennessee for approximately 15 years.  In that time frame I have never had a parent request to speak to me or ask me about any state end of course testing.  However, I have spoken with thousands of parents and students about the ACT.


Because the ACT matters to my stakeholders.  By using the ACT Aspire and ACT tests, we can finally have an alignment where my stakeholders, my teachers and frankly, me, can actually care.

“This is from a principal of a STEM school here in Tennessee.  He is also the father of three daughters,” Rep. Butt said.

Butt noted that the Bradley County Board of Education backs HB 617, and sent her a resolution to that effect:

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Bradley County Board of Education urges the General Assembly and the Tennessee Department of Education to allow school districts the opportunity to select either the math and English language arts assessment provided by the state or an English or math test that is part of the ACT or SAT suite of testing.

“Schools across the state are asking for the option to be able to do this.  So this is one of those pieces of legislation that will probably be something that the Department of Education may not really like, because they are so deeply invested in the TNReady test and the end of course testing.  But, the ACT is one of those measurements that colleges across the nation recognize.  So it is a consistent, proven measurement of student success in college readiness,” Butt noted.

“So I have districts across the state, as I said, who will be coming to testify at the committee here,” she added, but that testimony alone is just one part of her plan to get HB 617 enacted into law.

“I need for parents and teachers and educators to contact your state representative.  Contact Senator Bowling’s office.  Senator Bowling is carrying this in the senate, and we are going to need the people of the state of Tennessee to help us to get this passed,” Butt added.

“So please contact your representative, contact the Department of Education and say that you would like for your local school district to have this option in testing our students,” Butt concluded.

You can contact the Department of Education at this address:

Department of Education, Dr. Candice McQueen, 710 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37243 (615)741-5158

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