More on Evaluating Teacher Evaluations

Gov. Bill Haslam called Wednesday for a new study of the state’s new teacher evaluation system, the source of multiple complaints from educators, before any changes are made by the state Legislature.
In a news conference, Haslam said an “independent review” would be conducted by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), which will “separate the anecdotes from the flaws” and report back June 1. Legislative leaders expect the 2012 legislative session to be finished by then.
SCORE President Jamie Woodson, a former Republican state senator from Knoxville, said the “independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization” would cover costs of the review and make recommendations for change after gathering “robust feedback” from all interested parties.
Haslam said SCORE has a record of supporting strong teacher evaluations and that should be a starting point for a review, which would focus on “is what we have working well.”
Note: Haslam news release and a statement from Fitzhugh posted HERE.

Republican legislators attending the news conference also announced the filing of a resolution, HJR520 by Rep. John Forgety, R-Athens, that calls on the state Department of Education to continue its own review of the system, including “focus groups” for parents and teachers.
The governor indicated that the resolution is the only legislative action needed for the 2012 legislative session, which begins Jan. 10.
“We don’t feel like legislative changes are the right approach this year,” said Haslam.
At least two bills are pending on the teacher evaluation system, which went into effect earlier this year and has prompted complaints from some teachers and principals that it is confusing, unfair in some respects and takes too much time away from classroom instruction.
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh has proposed that implementation of the new system be put on hold for at least a year. Also, Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport, proposed a bill last week that would alter the evaluation scoring system for some teachers.
Fitzhugh said in an interview Wednesday that he supports the idea of a full study of the system and believes it will result in recommendations for change. But he said the need for a study should be seen as emphasizing the need for a delay in implementation.
“It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to say, ‘We’ve got some problems and we’re going to look at them, but we’re going to go ahead an implement it now rather than wait until we’ve got it right,” Fitzhugh said.
Haslam said the state Board of Education, charged with overseeing the evaluation process, can still make some minor changes through administrative action while the Legislature waits.
A delay in legislation, he said, is appropriate to give the process time to work and to learn more about what changes might be necessary.” He also said initial evaluation results this year will not be used in determining a teacher’s eligibility for tenure.
Note: Here’s some more from the AP’s Erik Schelzig:
Woodson said the organization will seek out a “wide range of voices,” especially from educators.
“Our role will be to listen,” Woodson said. “Over the next several months, we will gather feedback on the promising aspects of these new approaches as well as identity areas for improvement and produce a report back.”
The new evaluation standards require half of teachers’ assessments to come from testing data, and the other half from classroom observations. Some principals have complained that they don’t have enough time to perform multiple evaluations of students, while many teachers have voiced concerns that their subjects are not covered by standardized tests.
Jerry Winters, the lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association, has said the new evaluation system has many unresolved problems and that it should not be used for “high-stakes personnel decisions” in the current school year.
… Republican leaders were quick to stress that they don’t consider the study to be a retreat from the standards established.
“I’m 100 percent on board with the governor on this, that we don’t need to be backing up now,” said Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville. “But we do need to be evaluating as we go along and make sure that we have a good product.”
House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, echoed Ramsey’s comments.
“As legislators go out into their districts they hear positive responses, and they also hear some legitimate concerns,” she said. “And as a legislative body we wanted an outlet for members to have to have those concerns addressed and listened to.”

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