As the new school year approaches, the Obama administration announced Monday it will grant No Child Left Behind waivers to states that make certain education reforms. Tennessee has applied for a waiver, and Metro Nashville Public Schools could soon find out if it qualifies.
But Metro teachers and principals were busy preparing Monday for the first day of classes on Thursday as a new teacher evaluation system gets ready to launch.
"There's really not a minute to waste," teacher Pam Mirian said.
While many Metro Schools have struggled to meet federal benchmarks, Charlotte Park has been one of the success stories. After falling behind, they have made Adequate Yearly Progress two years in a row.
"We've been very successful with all the strategies and ideas we've implemented this school year," Charlotte Park Principal Constance Hayes said.
Currently under No Child Left Behind, schools are supposed to have 100 percent of students rated proficient in math and reading by 2014.
Hayes says the talk of waivers isn't distracting.
"As of today we are already looking at what strategies we need to look into, what we can do to enhance the learning of our students. And we just feel we are going to make it regardless," she said.
Teachers at Charlotte Park and other Metro schools are already studying their students, previous test data and coming up with a game plan for success.
"Everyone is committed to seeing that we help children succeed," Mirian said.
But schools and teachers will see some changes this year, including higher federal benchmarks.
"Where there's a high bar, where they are doing the right things for children we want to give them more flexibility, frankly, get out of their way and let them hit that higher bar," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Perhaps the biggest change will be the way teachers are evaluated. For the first time, student achievement will factor into evaluations. Starting this year, 50 percent will be based on classroom observations. Teacher effect data called TVAAS will make up 35 percent, and the remaining 15 percent will be other student achievement measures.
Metro principals received training on the new evaluation system at a workshop this summer.
"We are going to embrace being evaluated in a positive manner, we're going to approach it in a positive manner," Hayes said.
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