A nonprofit education research group released a new report Monday on Tennessee's new teacher evaluation system.
More than 15,000 teachers and 1,000 principals provided feedback about the new teacher evaluation system. And while teachers approved some of the recommendations, they want to hear more specifics and have more flexibility.
It was a tough year to be a teacher in Tennessee, and many point to the new teacher evaluation system as the main reason.
"We've had a very difficult year. Teacher morale has been at an all-time low," said Gera Summerford, with the Tennessee Education Association.
The complaints ranged from the time burden it took to prepare and evaluate, to the fact that most of the teachers were graded based on other teachers' scores.
Gov. Bill Haslam asked the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, to take a look at where the system could be improved.
"I'm fully committed to the evaluation system, and for it to work we need to make certain it's the best it can be," Haslam said on May 29.
SCORE provided the following seven recommendations to improve the evaluation system:
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.
"Just as we say we don't need a one-size-fits-all system for children, we don't need a one-size-fits-all measurement tool for assessing teachers and instructional practice," Summerford said.
Haslam released a statement Monday about the SCORE report, saying the state "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."
Some of the changes recommended by SCORE would require legislative approval.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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