Governor Bill Haslam named a new education commissioner Wednesday, and she’s one of the biggest supporters of Common Core education standards in the state.
Candice McQueen is dean of Lipscomb University’s college of education and oversees its private K-12 school. She’s been a teacher of teachers for most of her career after spending a few years in public school classrooms herself.
She’s no stranger to the state capitol. McQueen has been called on to testify in legislative hearings, where she has given a full-throated defense of Common Core.
But her arrival comes just as Haslam has opened up Common Core to take comments and suggested changes. McQueen said she expects to follow through on that process.
“Higher standards can take lots of different forms,” McQueen said. “And we’re going to stay on track for high standards, and we’re going to make sure our review process gives us that kind of result.”
McQueen’s appointment received praise on the state and local level. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean pointed to her ability to deescalate controversial situations.
“She is skilled at finding common ground in an often contentious conversation,” Dean said in a statement. “The Governor has made an excellent choice.”
The state’s largest teachers union – which has clashed with outgoing commissioner Kevin Huffman – asked for someone from Tennessee who had more classroom experience. In a statement, the Tennessee Education Association said they hope that McQueen will listen to “veteran educators.”
“The people who work with children in the classroom every day are the real experts and should have a significant voice in decision-making at the state level,” TEA president Barbara Gray said in a statement.
McQueen will start Jan. 20, one week into the next legislative session.
Her appointment leaves a vacancy at Lipscomb, which is now starting a national search for a new dean of education.