Tennessee Moves Away from Test Scores on Teacher Evaluations

A new policy has been put in place by the Tennessee State Board of Education that removes using student test scores as a reason to stop the advancement of teachers in the state. In its place, teachers who are consistently highly rated will have an easier time moving up inside their profession.

According to Joey Garrison for The Tennessean, teachers who score at least a 3 out of 5 in the Tennessee Evaluation Assessment Model (TEAM) will receive credit they can put toward professional development needed for license renewal, allowing them to skip out on coursework or conferences. Teachers with a score of 3 will receive 10 credits, while those with a 5 will receive 20 credits. 60 professional development credits are needed to renew one's teaching license.

"It keeps a lot of the same principles from our current policy — using professional development credits to advance or renew — but it streamlines the process and it gives teachers more empowerment to use their performance data in a positive way," said Sara Heyburn, an assistant commissioner at the Department of Education.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is not so convinced by the plan. He believes the idea does not guarantee that teachers who are receiving these high marks are actually performing at high levels. Parents of children whose teachers are consistently rated poorly "have the right to know".

"If you're performing in the classroom, that's great — you shouldn't have to do some of the paperwork that you otherwise would have to do," he said.

"But just being pretty blunt about this: This isn't a statement of quality of anything in terms of renewing a license. It's just sort of where we wound up throughout the whole process."

Currently, the state mediates when a teacher consistently scores low through in-classroom assessments, but the local districts are still heavily relied on to create plans for improvement.

"We need to do everything we can to recognize our outstanding teachers," board chairman Fielding Rolston agreed. "They're out there. The challenge is to figure out exactly how to do it. We need to do more than we're doing."

Huffman has been the source of much debate lately. Most recently he was accused of withholding students' end-of-year exam scores in an effort to raise final grades in a letter to Governor Bill Haslam from a group of Tennessee Republicans. The Republicans accused Huffman of illegally granting waivers to schools, allowing them to withhold test scores from students' final grades in an effort to cover up the "disastrous results of this year's TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program) test scores".

Huffman claimed the scores were held for four extra days because "post-equating" (a process to determine the tests' validity and reliability) took longer than expected due to this year's new test, reports Alexis Zotos for TV station WATE .

The state education department released a statement saying that the claims of falsifying grades were untrue.

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