Reporter’s Notebook: State Reform Group Evaluates Tennessee Teacher Evaluations

SCORE Report Cover, Courtesy tnscore.org

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. –  Six months ago, Governor Haslam asked the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education to review Tennessee’s teacher evaluation process. The group released that report today, but SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson says it’s far from the final word on teacher evaluations.

“One of our specific recommendations is that this report isn’t just the one and done,” Woodson says. “We think it’s very important that educator feedback and this conversation of improving the educator evaluation system over time is very important.”

Woodson also cautioned against taking the SCORE report as a checklist.

“We think that each of the options that we’ve provided will be worthy of consideration from the policymakers and educators that will be impacted,” Woodson says.

Woodson further stressed that the report provides “multiple options” and “highlights best practices” with “some specificity,” but provides “room for each important policymaker group to be considering important and needed refinements in the system.”

Woodson specifically referenced the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Board of Education, and the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development to in today’s media conference call; all three organizations will release their own reports before the next legislative session in January.

The SCORE report highlights seven recommendations, offering at least one “option” in each. Each point below is from my notes on today’s conference call; to see the full report and unabbreviated list of recommendations, please click here.

Takeaways (adapted from my notes)

1) Make sure teachers and principals have good evaluation training.

2) Offer teachers career training opportunities (professional development) based on identified skills and weaknesses.

3) Find ways to fairly measure teachers whose subjects aren’t tested. For example: offer teachers in non-tested subjects like music, art and physical education an option to temporarily increase their observation (quantitative) score.

4) Train and support the teacher trainers and evaluate principal and superintendent performance

5) Identify districts where leaders are having trouble with the evaluation system and remind them that state law allows them to apply for flexibility to create their own system (within state parameters) if necessary

6) Align the evaluation with Common Core standards.

7) Continue reviewing the process at the state, district and local level.

SCORE’s Chief Operating Officer Sharon Roberts says SCORE reviewed all four models districts are using in Tennessee now.

“Within our report we focus on pulling out the successes we’ve heard across the state – as well as the challenges – and we believe that there’s real value in this ongoing continuous improvement process at looking at and across all four of the models.”

The state uses the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM); individual districts choose to use the state model or one of three other models: the Teacher Instructional Growth for Effectiveness and Results (TIGER), Measures of Effective Teaching (MET), or Project COACH.

Woodson says pulling success and challenge stories across all four systems offers opportunity for collaboration within districts.

“As an example, where administrative challenges in balancing these new roles and highlights of instructional leadership, in Hamilton County (Chattanooga area) particularly, the use of technology has been seen as a real add-value for administrators and educators alike to really help balance the new responsibilities and is seen as a powerful tool in their evaluation process.”

The state will see two evaluation reports after this one: The Tennessee Department of Education is expected to report back to the general assembly in mid-July, while the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development (TnCRED) is expected to issue a report in the fall.

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