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Lawmakers setting Tennessee education policy get first homework assignment

Rep. Roger Kane of Knoxville is the retiring chairman of the House Education Instruction and Programs subcommittee.
Rep. Roger Kane of Knoxville is the retiring chairman of the House Education Instruction and Programs subcommittee.
Grace Tatter/Chalkbeat

A former teacher, Rep. Roger Kane has experience assigning homework. But this year marks the first time he’s assigned it to his fellow Tennessee lawmakers.

Members of the House Education Instruction and Programs subcommittee walked away from their first meeting on Wednesday with the panel’s first-ever homework assignment: a 26-page case study from the Harvard Business Review about a Maryland charter school gone awry.

The Knoxville Republican, who chairs the subcommittee, gave the lawmakers a week to read the study and answer questions about whether the school should be closed.

“I want to know what questions we should be asking,” said Kane, now an insurance broker who still teaches finance to adults. “I want us to understand what we’re asking others to do.”

Kane, who has served in the legislature since 2012, said he did the assignment himself while learning about minority student achievement at an Education Pioneers conference, which he attended in hopes of broadening his perspective.

“Ninety-seven percent of my district is white,” he said. “I don’t know the problems (facing minority communities) today as well as I should.”

Kane said the case study — detailing a Massachusetts charter school’s challenges with buildings, teachers and academic achievement — was “eye-opening.”

“It was stunning to me that a state would allow this,” he said.

The instruction subcommittee is one of four panels focused on education in the Tennessee House and meets each Wednesday. The full Instruction committee meets on Tuesdays.

Kane said the homework assignment will not be graded.

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