Tennessee releases teacher evaluation report

Friday, July 13, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 28

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee education officials say teacher evaluations should be based more heavily upon how students score on tests in the subjects and grades that they teach, and less upon test scores for the entire school.

That's according to a Tennessee Department of Education report released to lawmakers. The recommendations address a major concern among educators who said they were being evaluated based on the performance of students that they did not even teach.

Those evaluation standards were first enacted as part of Tennessee's federal Race to the Top application in 2010. Tennessee was one of the first two states selected for the grants.

Last month, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, released its own study that said about two-thirds of the state's teachers should be allowed to opt for a smaller portion of their evaluations to be based on student testing data.

Fifty percent of teachers' evaluations are based on student testing data, but only about one-third teach subjects where growth scores are collected. The SCORE report recommended that teachers in subjects or grades without specific testing data be allowed to reduce that component to 25 percent of their evaluation.

In a summary of its report, the state education department recommended "making schoolwide value-added scores a smaller portion of teachers' evaluations if they are unable to obtain individual value-added measures."

Jerry Winters, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association, told The Associated Press the recommendations are appropriate.

"It's very consistent with what we were saying months ago," he said. "There's no way this system is going to work unless they do take that kind of action of not depending so heavily on schoolwide data."

The department also suggests allowing teachers with the highest growth scores — such as a four or five — to have this measure count for 100 percent of their evaluations.

It also called for a more streamlined observation process for teachers with the highest ranking on value-added scores.

Currently, the observation process for non-tenured teachers is six a year, and four times a year for tenured teachers.

Winters said the process needs to be streamlined for all teachers, and not just those at the top.

"That's one of the major problems with this whole system, is that it's so time consuming for teachers and administrators," he said.

The department said it found that many districts noticed increased quality of instruction in their schools following the implementation of the new evaluation system.

"Developing an effective model for evaluating educators is part of our system-wide efforts to develop better conditions for teaching and learning in Tennessee," said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. "We are encouraged by the results we've seen so far, and the department will continue to use feedback from stakeholders and measurable outcomes in classrooms to improve evaluations year after year."

The department's recommendations follow a year of soliciting feedback from educators statewide. Officials had conversations with more than 7,500 teachers and held meetings with directors of schools from every district.