TN: Report on Teacher Evaluation System Recommends Changes

Teacher evaluation ratings should give more weight to the student test scores in the subjects they teach rather than the test results of the entire school, according to the Tennessee education officials charged with evaluating the state’s teacher assessment system. The findings, outlined in a report released by the Tennessee Department of Education to the state’s legislators, are meant to address concerns from teachers who said that their evaluations depended on academic outcomes of students who weren’t even in their classes.

Currently 50% of a teacher’s rating is computed based on test data, which is a problem for those whose subject areas aren’t being routinely tested. Another report on the system compiled by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education recommended that in those cases, teachers should be allowed to ask for the percentage of their grade determined by testing to be reduced by half to 25%.

In a summary of its report, the state Education Department recommended “making school-wide value-added scores a smaller portion of teachers’ evaluations if they are unable to obtain individual value-added measures.”

Tequilla Banks, executive director of teacher talent and effectiveness at Memphis City Schools, said she had no qualms with the recommendations.

“Some of the recommended changes in there are changes that I think our district would support,” she said. “As I read through the report, nothing alarmed me. “

Keith Williams of the Memphis Education Association said that the fact that the DOE is already looking for recommendations on how the evaluation system, which only went into effect in 2010, should be changed proves that it was deployed too early and before all due diligence on it had been done.

“They do recognize that teachers were being evaulated and not given scores that were theirs. That’s a good thing,” he said.

“My objections are that it shows haste makes waste. …It speaks to the haste of developing such an important document. There’s not a lot of due diligence in this.”

The report also recommends allowing teachers who rank the best according to value-added measures and growth scores should be able to opt out of teacher observation portion of the assessment altogether and count the test data for 100% of their evaluation rating. Those who do not wish to opt out completely should have their observation process streamlined from the current 6-a-year for non-tenured and 4-a-year for tenured schedule. Jerry Winters, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association, says that changing the way the in-person assessment is conducted will prove a big time and money saver to the schools and their districts.

Overall, the report found that the new teacher evaluation system was a net-positive for the state with many districts reporting that  teacher quality has gone up as a result of its introduction.