published Friday, January 8th, 2010

Bredesen predicts using test scores to evaluate teachers will pass

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Phil Bredesen

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    Staff photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen talks during an interview Thursday with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in his Nashville office.

NASHVILLE — Gov. Phil Bredesen predicted Thursday that state lawmakers will approve his proposal to tie teacher evaluations and tenure to student achievement.

“I believe it will get done,” Gov. Bredesen told the Chattanooga Times Free Press during a sit-down interview in his state Capitol office.

However, he said he also expects to face opposition from the Tennessee Education Association, which represents thousands of teachers statewide.

“I don’t believe TEA is going to support it in making it happen,” he said, hastily adding, “But I also believe, since I have a lot of respect for the organization and have worked with them, that we can assuage those fears in the way this thing is put together over the course of the next year.”

The association’s chief lobbyist, Jerry Winters, appeared taken aback by the governor’s remarks.

“I hope he’s not saying we’re at an impasse on this issue,” Mr. Winters said. “We’re under the impression that conversations are going to continue, and we were hoping we could reach an agreement and still hope that we can.”

Gov. Bredesen’s comments come as he prepares officially to call lawmakers into a special session on Tuesday to address K-12 and higher education reforms.

For K-12 education, the governor is seeking changes he says are necessary to help Tennessee compete for federal “Race to the Top” funds, which seek to encourage and reward schools that create conditions for education innovations and reform.

Those steps include, he said, using student testing data to help evaluate teacher performance when it comes to granting tenure as well as in annual evaluations. If Tennessee is selected for Race to the Top money, it could bring as much as $500 million in one-time funds, the administration says.

The deadline to apply for the federal funds is Jan. 19, Gov. Bredesen has emphasized, but lawmakers note there is also a separate round of competition with a June deadline.

Tennessee Education Association officials have been negotiating with top gubernatorial aides in recent weeks. On Thursday, House and Senate leaders expected the legislation to be unveiled but it was delayed — due to the lack of agreement.

“If we could overcome our differences on a couple of key issues, we could be supportive,” Mr. Winters said.

Among them is how much weight to give testing when assessing teacher performance, he said.

Gov. Bredesen has said it should be at least 50 percent. The TEA says that is too much.

While noting “there is an agreement in principle” with TEA officials, Gov. Bredesen said there remains a “wide gap on how much” weight to give student achievement in teacher evaluations.

Mr. Winters said the TEA, which in years past has blocked using test scores in awarding tenure, is making a good-faith effort in discussions.

“I don’t want the TEA blamed for knocking the state out of several hundred million dollars,” he said. “On the other hand, it goes against our grain ... to rush something through the Legislature on the chance you’ll get some federal money.”

The governor, a Democrat in his last year in office, said he would be pushing to use student achievement test results in determining tenure regardless of the federal funds.

“I think we can design a real evaluation in a way that addresses the concerns and fears that teachers have about its arbitrary use,” Gov. Bredesen said.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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gkpass said...

Using test scores as a way to evaluate teachers is a guaranteed way to ensure students fail to learn. Emphasis on getting high test scores will outweigh student learning. As parents to seven children, we've seen this time and again. School systems want high test scores so begin teaching test answers rather than directing any real energies into education. Coming from a long line of teachers, I can tell you that the teacher worth his or her salt is the one that helps a child love to learn.

January 8, 2010 at 2:57 a.m.
EaTn said...

gkpass- it would be great if all teachers were dedicated and test scores would not be an issue. Most all professions from various medical groups to lawyers police their own, and tenure has little to do with whether they get their licenses pulled. The teacher organizations should act more like these professional groups.

January 8, 2010 at 5:57 a.m.
jrb_dr said...

I think this whole idea is ridiculous. If the Governor thinks it is such a great idea, then it seems to me he would be fully supportive of a similar evaluative process to be instituted by the Federal Government to determine whether the governor of a state is sufficiently qualified to be the governor, as the basis on which federal money is awarded to the state and whether or not the governor is qualified to continue to serve as the governor of that state. Furthermore, I should point out that teachers have to pass 3 tests before they can be licensed as a teacher. Similarly, I believe each state should institute a licensing requirement for all elected officials which among other requirements would require the individual to pass a test covering their knowledge of both the State and U.S. Constitutions as well as such basic subjects as History, Grammar, Mathematics etc. Failure to pass this exam would result in the person not receiving a license to run for office. What do you think, Governor? Could you pass such a test? Governor Bredsen, you and all other politicians should be willing to submit yourself to the same level of evaluation that you seem to expect of teachers. I think it is interesting that most jobs and professions that affect the public’s well-being require licensing by the state. In my humble opinion, since in most cases it is unfortunate that politicians impact the public’s well being as much as any other job or profession, they should be held to a high set of standards as well or not be allowed to run or hold office. Why do I think you are not willing to do that? If you are, then I fully support what you are doing, otherwise, It seems to me you are two faced. What say you, Governor?

January 8, 2010 at 2 p.m.
dao1980 said...

I think you're on to something there jrb_dr. Reguardless of the current issue that is shining a light on this confusingly unevident issue of "how qualified are our politicians." What you are saying is absolutely an urgent topic that I would like to see more of on the table as our country evolves through the coming / passing decades. I understand the desire to make your place in history, and I understand the desire of power and money, as well as the ability to "feather" ones hat with acomplishment. But the question of qualification needs primary. Most of our politicians who are well educated are of the age that thier knowledge of the system is out of date and cannot keep up with the current times. Many others just operate out of selfish desire, or are good at being in the right place at the right time. Now, I know it is much easier to critisize an important descision than it is to make it. And I have great respect of the people that we have making these tough decisions on a daily basis. BUT! If you dont know why we are where we are now as a county, how can you know where to take us? AND! If you cant drive a car because you are elderly, you should'nt be driving a city, county, state, or country. Sorry, I love my Grandfather, but I dont want to ride with him. Please take all of this with a grain of salt, I mean no disrespect.

January 8, 2010 at 3:04 p.m.
EaTn said...

We've recently witnessed that being in politics for years is no guarantee of success nor ability to keep that job. The same goes for most public jobs. Why should we expect any less from those who teach our kids? Test scores may not be a perfect measure but at least it's objective.

January 8, 2010 at 4:59 p.m.
Oz said...

If you want better education:

  1. Keep disruptive children out of the classroom. 5% of the children are ruining education for the other 95%. In case some of you don't know....School resource officers are police officers. Kids that require police officers to enforce discipline are not students. They are juvenile delinquents.

  2. Quit passing children that cannot perform on grade level. I doubt 5% of the behavior problems in a classroom can perform on grade level.

  3. If a child is not college material by the end of the 8th grade. Put the child in a vocational program. Skilled labor is getting hard to find and these jobs pay well. Every child is not college material. I know many successful business owners without a college degree but they are geniuses in their field of expertise.

  4. Test every child at the end of the year and place them in a class the following year according to skill level. Instead of mixing together kids with different skill levels. It's easier to bring up a class as a whole.

  5. Parents accept some responsiblity. Quit whining about homework. Teachers cannot do it all. Take the time to assist YOUR child with homework. It is impossible for a child to learn it all at school. Place your emphasis on education instead of sports. Scholarhips are great but your child needs to have a foundation to obtain a college degree. Notice: It's called a SCHOLARship....it's not a Sportship.

How much money could society save on blood pressure medications, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, etc. if teachers and students didn't live in fear of their educational environment?

Society needs to quit blaming teachers. They are a very small percentage of the problem. They just want to do their job in a safe environment. 95% of them care about children and have a love for education.

Let's quit blaming teachers and start supporting them.

January 8, 2010 at 5:03 p.m.
Sadie said...

If this passes, dedicated teachers whom have chosen to teach in the hardest and/or most challenging schools might be forced to start leaving in droves. Some of us choose to teach in schools that are considered "at risk" with transition rates as high as 50% and Free and reduced lunch student rates around 95 to 99%. It would be easier to teach on the other side of town where the students come to school reading and almost if not all students come into your classroom on grade level. Instead we teach in classrooms where only a few students come to us on grade level and the class we start with usually looks nothing like the class we end with. I teach 2nd grade and I have students who can't read and do not know all the sounds of the alphabet to those reading on third and 4th grade level. I am supposed to have every student on grade level and meet the needs of every student in my class with no assistance. This includes that child that enters my class in February and can't read a word. According to NCLB and I guess the Governor I am a Substandard teacher if every student is not on grade level by May 26th (actually sometime in April when we take the TCAP) . I ask you, is it fair to judge my teaching on what my students do on 4 mornings out of the entire year and use this to determine my future and salary?

January 8, 2010 at 5:20 p.m.
whatsthefuss said...

I don't pretend to know what a politician thinks, but in this case I would think what is being asked is that students show mastery of new skills in successive years attending school. NCLB tests each student and scores are documented. If you as a teacher are given a student that tests a year behind I do not think anyone expects you to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Then again, a teacher, and I said a TEACHER that has the ability and understanding to connect with a student, the results can be significant. Also noted, that is the teacher that should be moved to the head of the class. $$$$$ To the thought of grouping students on ability and level, every study condemns the practice and there are many reasons for it. They all make sense. The teacher that supports this theory is the teacher that brings the principal a RED APPLE every day and goes on about how wonderful the superintendent is along with themselves!! It is easy to teach the 20% of the student population that knows the answers. The rest take DEDICATION and EFFORT. Because you show up for your 180 and collect a check, this does not make you a teacher!!! To the rest in the trenches, I APPLAUD YOU!!! I'm just sayin!

January 8, 2010 at 5:58 p.m.
Jhenry said...

Two of the biggest problems in education today:

  1. Tenure
  2. A union
January 8, 2010 at 6:07 p.m.
whatsthefuss said...

OH JHENRY HOW TRUE!!!

January 8, 2010 at 6:53 p.m.
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