Monday, June 11, 2012

Smarter, but still . . .

In November I did a post on my thoughts about Tennessee's new teacher evaluation model and they weren't very positive.  I was particularly concerned with the provision that 50% of every teacher's evaluation would be based on state test scores even if they did not teach in a content area that included a state test.  In those cases they could pick the content area to be included in their evaluation. 

I learned in this Education Week article that they may be getting smarter.  It seems that the governor commissioned a study of the work thus far and the group doing the work has recommended that those teachers in content areas without a state test, about two-thirds of the teachers in the state, should have only 25% of their evaluation based on state test scores.  This is a move in the right direction, but is it enough?  In this separate AP article I also learned that the state's Education Commissioner supports the recommendation and that the state department will be making other recommendations in July.  Maybe one of those will be to reduce the percentage further or simply remove it, but I doubt it based on the Commissioner Huffman's statement in the article.

"We are confident this work will improve the state's evaluation system," he said.

Not all in the state believe that the recommendation goes far enough.

Jerry Winters, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association, said the state's largest teachers' union welcomes changes to the evaluation standards.

"The state knew all along that the lack of test data for the majority of teachers in the state was a huge weakness in the system, but they stubbornly moved forward with the evaluations this past year anyway," TEA lobbyist Jerry Winters said in an email.

"The use of school-wide test data - evaluating teachers using the data of students they may not even teach - is a blatant mistake which raises major credibility issues," he said.

If you follow my blog you know that I am not happy with the decisions made by the legislators in the past session on teacher evaluation, but at least they did not specifically mandate how state test scores would be used in the evaluations.  They simply said that each district would bargain how to use some student achievement data in three of the evaluation criteria.  Sounds easy, but my experience suggests that this will become an issue in some systems and a decision that the legislators will choose to revisit as it plays into the waiver request from NCLB requirements.

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