Tennessee has led the charge in implementing strong, effective evaluation systems when working at recruiting and nurturing great teachers for their classrooms, writes Jocelyn Huber at Tennessean. Huber is director of teacher advocacy for Democrats for Education Reform.
Over the last year, Tennessee has begun to look like a state that could realistically set the standard for the rest of the country. Last year the state passed bold, bipartisan legislation, the First to the Top Act, to create a rigorous teacher and principal evaluation system. The move was backed by unions, the business community and a wide range of education stakeholders alike.
"When it comes to improving public schools, ideas can only take us so far. It's effective implementation of those ideas that yields results," says Huber.
But as the state looks to implement the moves, the strength of the evaluation model is in jeopardy.
"Watering it down or delaying its implementation would be a tremendous disservice to Tennessee's children, teachers and principals."
Tennessee's evaluation system specifically outlines the process by which local districts assess teachers and principals. This includes five effectiveness categories. Half of the requirement criteria is based on student achievement.
This directly links teachers and principals to the success of their students.
The equation seems simple. Better teachers mean better education. Better education means better grades, better students. The benefits for students are obvious. But Huber points out that what has often been overlooked during policy debates in Tennessee and elsewhere in the country are the benefits for teachers and principals.
"Every outstanding educator deserves to be treated like a professional and rewarded for his or her hard work and excellence. A strong evaluation system allows school districts to identify, reward, and support strong teachers, aid those who are struggling, and replace those who are consistently letting our children down."
The 19 states included in a report ranking new state teacher evaluation systems by the Democrats for Education Reform, Tennessee came out on top in the teacher rating and performance measures category.
"The state will move the needle in the right direction considerably if, and only if, it's implemented effectively."