Harvard-educated teacher can't become Tennessee principal

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Despite having a master's in educational leadership from Harvard, Isaac Litton Middle School teacher Ashley Croft can't become a principal in Tennessee because of the state's licensure process.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1yTU5vq) reports that since 2009, the state allows only for principals to graduate from an approved in-state college or university master's program. Out-of-state applicants must have at least three years of experience as a principal to receive a license.

For Croft to advance her career, she will have to go elsewhere.

"I certainly understand why the policy exists, so someone isn't coming from an out-of-state diploma mill," Croft said. "But that's sorta throwing out the baby with the bathwater."

Croft, who has a bachelor's in education from Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, went to Harvard in 2013. It wasn't until she enrolled there that she found Tennessee's licensing process doesn't recognize Harvard's program.

That is because the approved secondary schools teach to the state's instructional leadership standards, aimed at setting high standards for effective leadership based upon research and best practice, according to Ashley Ball, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education.

Ball said a teacher could ask for a review by one of the accredited universities, but it is costly and not required by law. And Croft was told by the universities, despite holding a principal's license in Massachusetts, that she would have to enroll in a Tennessee higher education institution, repeating what she learned in Boston.

The education department is reviewing its licensing process, and Croft has filed an online petition telling the state to amend its policies. So far, the petition has gained more than 700 signatures.

However, Croft is still considering leaving the state.

"I love teaching in Metro," she said. "And if I am going to leave, it's not for a teaching position."

Her situation has frustrated those who oversee her work at Isaac Litton Middle.

Principal Tracy Bruno said Croft leads a teacher professional learning circle once a month to help find ways to better teach kids, and sometimes fills in as a backup assistant principal.

"She went to one of the most highly regarded universities in the United States, if not the world, and the state is telling her she can't be a principal here," Bruno said. "If we lose her, it's a blow to the system. And it's a blow to the state."


Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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