Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) released a new report examining the state’s new teacher evaluation process. The report comes as the result of Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent charge to collect feedback from educators across the state.
“SCORE's role in this process has been to listen,” SCORE President and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Woodson in a statement. “It is our hope that this report and its recommendations will build on key successes of the new teacher evaluation system and support improvements moving forward, while always keeping the focus on what it takes to improve student achievement in our state.”
According to the report, the new evaluation process is making great strides in improving teacher quality and student achievement. However, the report showed that there are still challenges with the implementation, as some say that the evaluations still rely too much on accountability and not enough on supporting effective teaching.
Addressing these challenges, SCORE gathered information to providing the following seven recommendations in revamping teacher evaluations:
• Recommendation 1: Ensure current and prospective teachers and leaders receive sufficient training in the evaluation system.
• Recommendation 2: Link the feedback that teachers receive with high-quality, collaborative, and individualized professional learning opportunities so that they can improve their instruction. Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system needs to balance accountability for results with a focus on improving instruction, which is the key to improving student outcomes. To do so, the Department of Education and districts must provide meaningful professional learning opportunities and support to help teachers improve.
• Recommendation 3: 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.
• Recommendation 4: Support school and district leaders in becoming strong instructional leaders capable of assessing and developing effective teaching – and hold them accountable for doing so.
• Recommendation 5: Re-engage educators in those districts where implementation of the teacher evaluation system has faltered during the first year of work.
• Recommendation 6: Integrate the ongoing implementation of the teacher evaluation system and the Common Core State Standards so that they work together to improve student outcomes. All of the approved evaluation models should reflect the shifts in instruction that will be required as Tennessee implements higher, more rigorous academic standards through the Common Core State Standards.
• Recommendation 7: Drive continuous improvement of the teacher evaluation system at the state, district, and school levels. Leaders and educators must commit to improving the teacher evaluation system on an ongoing basis to maximize its impact on student achievement. For example, school districts should apply for flexibility from the Department of Education (an option currently available) to address their unique issues and concerns.
“If we want to improve education in Tennessee, that starts with an effective teacher leading each Tennessee classroom,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in a press release concerning the report. “This report is part of a comprehensive review of the teacher evaluation process. We want to support and reward effective teachers and are committed to making the evaluation system as strong as it can be.”
The report comes as Tennessee teachers will be evaluated using the controversial ‘value-added model,’ meaning they will be rated on whether their students make significant gains on standardized tests. However, this indicates that change may be on the way.
“I appreciate SCORE's work in traveling the state and listening to feedback from educators on teacher evaluations,” continued Haslam in the release. “We will review these recommendations along with the state Department of Education's internal review of the process, which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.”
While any change from requiring reliance on school-wide data would require approval next year by the Legislature, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said he expects the department recommendations to be ready by mid-July.
James Dugan is a writer for 360 Education Solutions