Tennessee laws block Harvard grad's path to principal's office

Ashley Croft has a Harvard degree, a teacher-of-the-year award from the state and the backing of her colleagues, but in Tennessee, that's not enough to send her to the principal's office.

Croft, who teaches in the Nashville neighborhood of Inglewood, grew up in Tennessee and attended Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate, wants to stay in her home state and move from the classroom to administration. But a quirky state regulation is blocking her path, and critics say it is time it's changed. Her master's degree came from an out-of-state school, and she doesn't have experience as a principal in the Volunteer State - factors that bar her from the promotion she seeks.

"I certainly understand why the policy exists, so someone isn't coming from an out-of-state diploma mill," the Isaac Litton Middle School teacher told The Tennessean. "But that's sorta throwing out the baby with the bathwater."

To become a principal in Tennessee, Croft either has to enroll in an in-state higher education institution or gain three years of principal experience out-of-state. Since she has no desire to leave Tennessee, she finds herself stuck - despite her Ivy League credentials and rave reviews from her peers.

Croft has filed an online petition asking the state to modify the policies. While Tennessee’s Department of Education reviews its licensing process, Croft feels the only way to advance in her career is to leave her job.

"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," said Isaac Litton Middle School Principal Tracy Bruno. "If we lose her, it's a blow to the system. And it's a blow to the state."

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