Report Outlines State of Health of New TN Teacher Eval System

It has been a year since Tennessee put into effect a new teacher evaluation system. To mark the occasion, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) released a report Supporting Effective Instruction in Tennessee to outline the successes, concerns and recommendations that have arisen since the system has been put in place. Over the past 6 months, SCORE has been gathering feedback from teachers and other stakeholders in the system, tasked by the state Governor Bill Haslam to conduct this process independent of government. After collecting input from over 27,000 individuals, the group released the roadmap that will guide the improvement of the new assessment system going forward.

SCORE heard consistent and positive feedback on many aspects of the evaluation, including that the system is improving both the quality of instruction and student results. SCORE also heard challenges related to the implementation of the new system, including perceptions that the evaluation is overly focused on accountability and not enough on improving and supporting effective teaching.

One of the most important aspects of the new evaluation system that places it above the system used previously, is that it provides teacher feedback aimed at improving the quality of instruction. By combining classroom observation with student achievement data and the year-to-year academic progress information, the assessment has the potential to provide very specific details on where the teachers most need improvement. Unfortunately, the way the system is implemented, schools aren’t taking a full advantage of information like this.

One of the ideas put forward by the SCORE report is that teacher assessment shouldn’t begin and end with the rating assigned to them by the evaluation system. Instructors, especially those whose effectiveness scores are lagging, would greatly benefit not only from continuing assessment but also opportunities to improve their instruction methods via additional individualized training. Teacher accountability shouldn’t be the only goal of the new system. It should also be a guideline on where instructors need to focus in order to improve their teaching quality and thereby produce better student outcomes.

Address challenges with the current quantitative and qualitative measures of teacher effectiveness. Many of the issues that have arisen are not due to problems with the First to the Top plan for teacher evaluation, but rather from the remaining gaps in the development and implementation of measures of the evaluation system. We recommend these gaps in the quantitative measure and some missing elements in the qualitative measure be addressed as soon as possible. For example, we recommend the state offer teachers in non-tested grades and subjects (who do not yet have individual student growth, or value-added, data) the option of temporarily increasing the weighting of the qualitative portion of the evaluation.

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