Our Methodology

Tennesseans for Student Success publishes the SuccessCard to ensure parents, teachers, and advocates for high-quality public education have, at their fingertips, a detailed analysis of each legislative session, its impact on education outcomes, and an easy-to-understand report on how each member of the Tennessee General Assembly voted on the policies that drive student achievement.

We conducted a review of each lawmaker’s record on policies supporting high-quality public education. Legislators received an overall grade on a scale of 0 to 100, as well as a letter grade, A to F. Lawmakers scoring between 90 and 100 earned an A; 80 to 89 earned a B; 70 to 79 earned a C; 60 to 69 earned a D; and anything below a 59.9 is considered an F. In addition to their overall score, legislators were also graded on their support of each of TSS’ policy principles:

  • Championing Higher Standards
  • Supporting an Aligned Assessment
  • Protecting Accountability
  • Innovating in Education
  • Securing Economic Opportunity for All

Not all of TSS’ policy priorities will come up for a vote in each legislative session.

LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS CONSIDERED
Tennesseans for Student Success will track and review committee and floor votes on bills related to our policy priorities. We also consider a legislator’s sponsorship of bills that are in support of or opposition to our priorities when calculating the overall score.

COMPUTATION
Members will receive a score based on their voting records. Depending on committee assignments, some members will have more opportunities to vote on relevant bills than others. Voting in support of a TSS position will earn a member one (1) point per vote. Serving as the prime sponsor of a bill supported by TSS will earn members 0.5 additional points while sponsoring a bill opposed by TSS will result in a member being penalized by 0.75 points per bill. Amending a bill opposed by TSS to a neutral position will reduce the demerit to 0.5.

Sample Score Calculations—Rep. John Doe

7 (points for voting in support of TSS positions) – 0.75 (sponsoring TSS opposed bill)

 9 (opportunities to vote)

69% (D)

Sample Score Calculation—Sen. Jane Doe

5 (points for voting in support of TSS positions) + 0.5 (sponsoring TSS supported bill)

 6 (opportunities to vote)

91% (A)

Excused absences from floor votes are not considered in the total number of opportunities to vote.  Not casting a vote when given the opportunity will be scored similarly to a vote cast in opposition to the TSS position. It will be assumed, given no substantive changes in the legislation, that members casting voice votes in committee but who record a vote in a latter committee on a roll call or in a vote on the floor would have held the same position in the committee in which the voice vote was cast. The next recorded vote will then also count as their votes in previous committee action.

Lawmakers earning a score of 100% will earn a letter grade of A+. Those with a numerical score over 100% will earn a “Top of Class” badge that will accompany their profile. Under each member’s individual score, TSS will also calculate the average score of the chamber in which they serve. We also provide a “Lifetime Score” for each legislator.

REVISED METHODOLOGY FOR 2020 SESSION

The response to and evolving strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Tennessee interrupted the ordinary course of the 2020 session and necessitated the following special one-time adjustments to our methodology.

COVID-19 continues to negatively impact thousands of Tennesseans and the General Assembly appropriately shifted its focus to respond to the unprecedented health and economic crisis. The sudden shift resulted in the cessation of legislative debate on several policy proposals related to K-12 education.  We believe this legislature’s work to improve student achievement is best measured in 2020 by considering its work comprehensively, over the entirety of the General Assembly (2019 and 2020). Therefore, the 2020 score was calculated using votes taken by the 111th General Assembly in 2019 and 2020. Credits and demerits were included for legislation sponsored or run in 2020, provided it had not been included in the 2019 grade calculation.

Absences beginning the last week in March until adjournment, when most Tennesseans were practicing social distancing, are considered excused. Floor votes were included for COVID-19 emergency response legislation that impacted student success; committee votes were not included.

 

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