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Dean of Tennessee Teacher-Prep Program Picked as New State K-12 Chief

UPDATED

Candice McQueen, the dean of the college of education at Lipscomb University in Tennessee, has been picked by Gov. Bill Haslam to be the next state K-12 commissioner, replacing outgoing commissioner Kevin Huffman. The news was first reported by the Tennessean on Dec. 17.

McQueen, a senior vice president at Lipscomb (where she also earned her bachelor's degree), has served as the dean of the school's college of education since 2008. During her six years on the job, enrollment in the teacher-preparation program has tripled, according to her bio on the university's website, and now stands at 500 students. She has also taught in both public and private schools and holds degrees from Vanderbilt University and the University of Texas.

In the last few years during McQueen's leadership, the teacher-preparation program at Lipscomb has received recognition from both the National Council for Teacher Quality and Tennessee's report card on in-state teacher-training programs.

"Lipscomb's College of Education produces some of our state's best teachers, and Candice gets a lot of credit for that," Haslam said in a statement announcing his selection of McQueen. "She has taught in a classroom, so she brings both the experience of being a teacher and of preparing teachers to teach

One of McQueen's signature initiatives has been to rigorously train students in Lipscomb's college of education in the Common Core State Standards. When she talked to my colleague Stephen Sawchuk, she said she wanted Lipscomb's teacher-preparation program to take a practical approach to the standards: "[I]t's frankly unethical to put out teachers that don't know the standards. Yes, we're teaching candidates theory, and to be thoughtful about understanding policy, but honestly, our job is to prepare the very best teachers that go out into the field."

She's also advocated for colleges of education to expand their use of teacher data, saying for a 2012 story in Education Week that they need to "stop being defensive" and look more aggressively at what data can be useful in teacher-preparation programs. 

"If she is the choice, the governor's made an outstanding pick," Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell told the Tennessean.

Huffman was picked to be the state's K-12 commissioner by Haslam in 2011. He led the state's transition to the common core and received both strong praise and criticism during his tenure. I wrote about his time in the Volunteer State earlier this month. Immediate reaction to McQueen's hiring from groups that supported Huffman during his tenure, such as the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, was positive, with the group calling her "uniquely qualified."


UPDATE: Meanwhile, the Tennessee Education Association, which clashed with Huffman over many policy issues including teacher evaluations, said it looked forward to working with McQueen. 

"TEA is hopeful she will use this new position to forcefully advocate within the administration to improve per student investment in Tennessee," the TEA president, Barbara Gray, said in a statement. "As a former educator herself, I'm sure she agrees that it is unacceptable for our state to rank below Mississippi in what we invest in our children."

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