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Grading TN teacher evaluations

8:53 PM, May 21, 2012   |    comments
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It has been a year of changes for teachers across Tennessee. Assessments of the system are mixed, depending on who is asked.

"I think it's been a good year," said Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools.

"We're hearing not so good things, teachers are very concerned," said Sherry Morgan, President of the Knox County Education Association.

The new "Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model" or TEAM evaluations call for teachers to be observed multiple times each year. Scores affect everything from pay to tenure.

Teachers receive scores ranging from one to five. One is "significantly below expectations", three is "meeting expectations", and five is "significantly above expectations".

Results for the full year are still being tallied, but in the first semester, Knox County's teachers scored at or above expectations roughly 90% of the time. The majority of those are for announced evaluations, the remainder are unannounced.

"There may be some qualitative differences in terms of what we see, in terms of scores, I don't think they'll be radically different," McIntyre said.

While those scores are above the system's initial projections, educators say the process is prompting experienced teachers to retire.

By February, the time requests must be submitted for teachers to be reimbursed for unused sick days, Knox County Schools had 120 retirement requests. That is down from 164 in the 2010-2011 school year and 126 in 2009-2010. It is in line with the three years prior, which averaged 125 requests.

Still, Morgan says those retirements leave major voids.

"You can't replace that experience," she said. "Those experienced teachers are the ones that are helping the younger teachers learn the art of teaching."

Legislators are willing to work to improve the process.  

 

In November, after hearing feedback from McIntyre and other educators, the state decided to combine two of the evaluations. Tenured teachers went from four annually to two; non-tenured from six to four.

"A lot of teachers were very thankful for that, a lot of administrators were thankful," Morgan said.

More changes may be on the horizon. Since December, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has been gathering feedback at roundtables throughout the state.

"We also launched an online questionnaire for educators, where over 17,000 educators across the state participated and gave valuable feedback," said Jamie Woodson, SCORE'S President & CEO.

Acting on the governor's request, the non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy group will present their recommendations in June.

"The Department of Education is also conducting their own internal feedback process that they will use along with our report to make recommendations to the State Board of Education," Woodson said.

Morgan says members are open to being evaluated, but they hope any changes will address a repeated concern; that a process designed to be objective, is inherently subjective.

"They (teachers) will look at the rubric and think they are doing these things, but the evaluator may not see those same things happening," Morgan said.

It is an evaluation system that while controversial to some, is seen by many as an improvement over the state's previous model, which evaluated teachers an average of twice in a ten year period.

"Certainly there is a learning curve, and certainly this year has not been without some bumps in the road," McIntyre said. "But I think overall it's been a really healthy, productive change."

SCORE is scheduled to present their recommendations June 11th.

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