- Tennessee K-12 public schools, including charters, may soon have to develop their own artificial intelligence policies under a proposal being considered by state legislators.
- HB 1630 would require local school boards to adopt measures on how students, teachers and staff use AI “for instructional and assignment purposes.” School boards would then have to report the policy to the Tennessee Department of Education by July 1, detailing how the adopted AI measures will be enforced in the 2024-25 school year.
- Tennessee schools would have just months to develop a policy if the legislation becomes law. On top of that, the state’s education department has not released comprehensive, official AI guidance for schools, and state officials have not indicated they would be doing so in the near future.
The pending Tennessee bill appears to be the first of any state legislation that would direct schools to create their own AI policies, said Bree Dusseault, principal and managing director at the Center on Reinventing Public Education.
CRPE, a research organization at Arizona State University, is monitoring states’ efforts to guide schools on AI use. While state-level supports remain in the early stages, Dusseault said school assistance on AI is primarily coming from state education agencies. So far, five state education departments have released K-12 guidance on AI, including California, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina and West Virginia.
When asked if the Tennessee Department of Education is planning to release statewide AI guidance for schools in the near future, Brian Blackley, the department’s director of media, said in an email that it will “provide guidance to districts as needed” if HB 1630 passes.
The bill would also require public colleges and universities to establish AI policies separate from K-12 schools. No additional state resources are currently attached to the bill, and legislators expect there to be little fiscal impact on the state if it’s enacted, noting that schools can use existing resources.
Dusseault said the Tennessee bill stands out because schools will have to quickly figure out their own AI policies without any current guidance from the state.
As states issue policies and guidance, she added, questions are surfacing about how to equip schools and districts with resources to implement these recommendations well.
“Any bill to create those policies would, I think, ideally have some resources attached,” Dusseault said. “There's a question of how much of this responsibility will fall on superintendents’ plates and school boards’ plates.”
CRPE has interviewed superintendents in focus groups about AI, she said. While district leaders want to get AI use policies in their schools right, they are overwhelmed with many other responsibilities like post-pandemic recovery. “They don’t always feel up to speed or fully literate on AI, and so they really are looking for guidance.”
“Any legislation would ideally ensure that there is resourcing alongside it, especially given that there is an expectation that the policies are in place presumably in seven or eight months,” Dusseault said.
When different state entities try to wrap their heads around AI in schools, there’s a balancing act, Dusseault said. On one hand, states could quickly implement these policies as a nod to the rapidly evolving pace of the technology. But on the flip side, there are still challenges of not knowing the full scope of AI and where it’s heading next.
With HB 1630’s advancement, Tennessee appears to be embracing the chance to get ahead on AI use in schools and colleges.
During a Tennessee House Education Administration Committee meeting on Jan. 31, the bill’s author, Rep. Scott Cepicky, said AI can be a strong asset for students and teachers, as seen in emerging tutoring tools. But more needs to be explored about this technology in schools beyond those benefits, he said.
“I think this is the beginning of a process in artificial intelligence in Tennessee,” Cepicky said. “It’s something we’re going to have to be very flexible on, because it’s going to continue to change every day, every hour, every minute.”