Dept. of Ed Eyeing Teacher Evaluation Changes

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee education officials are considering changes around some of the same areas identified in a recent study requested by the governor, the education commissioner said Thursday.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman spoke to reporters before speaking at a summit for elementary school teachers at the Legislative Plaza.
Earlier this week, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, released its study, which addressed educators’ concerns about student testing data.
The report said about two-thirds of the state’s teachers should be allowed to opt for a smaller portion of their evaluations to be based on such data.
Fifty percent of teachers’ evaluations are based on student testing data, but only about one-third teach subjects where value-added testing data is collected. The SCORE report recommends that teachers in subjects or grades without specific testing data be allowed to reduce that component to 25 percent of their evaluation.

The recommendation seeks to address concerns raised repeatedly by teachers since the evaluation measure was first enacted as part of Tennessee’s federal Race to the Top grant application in 2010. Tennessee was one of the first two states selected for the grants.
Huffman didn’t discuss specifics, but he said his report — which is due to lawmakers next month — will also deal with value-added testing data.
“Many of the things that you find in the score report are categories of things that we’ve been looking at,” he said. “I think that value-added scores … is something that we need to look at.”
Other recommendations made by SCORE include improving training for evaluators; linking evaluation results with training opportunities for teachers; accelerating a system for evaluating principals; redoubling efforts in districts where teacher evaluation systems have faltered in the first year; and integrating the evaluation system with the new common core state standards.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, who also spoke at the summit, acknowledged the system needs to be “tweaked some,” but overall he considers it to be an effective tool to make the state’s teachers better.
“This will be a tool that we can use to improve education,” the Blountville Republican said.
Gov. Bill Haslam said he didn’t see a need to prolong changes to the system. He said his predecessor put the evaluation team together, “and our message was it’s too important to wait until everything is perfect.”
“So let’s go ahead and start it, and then we’ll make adjustments as we can along the way,” Haslam said. “I think the evaluation process next year will be better, and we’ll have another year where we see improved academic teaching.”
Jerry Winters, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association, said he appreciates the effort to make changes to the system, but that “the problems go beyond tweaks.”
“It’s going to take substantive change, and that needs to be done now, or we’re going to lose a lot of good teachers,” Winters said.
Huffman said he doesn’t expect the review of the evaluation system to be a “one-year thing.”
“There’s no perfect evaluation system,” he said. “I expect we’ll be doing this again. Hopefully, this will be an annual process.”

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