published Monday, January 25th, 2010

Teacher reviews to add to packed school days

Panel to create evaluation plan for annual feedback

by Kelli Gauthier


* Now: Teachers are evaluated three times every five years (one formal evaluation and two informal)

* Fall 2011: Teachers will be evaluated formally each year

Unless the state's newly required annual teacher evaluations are streamlined, Nolan Elementary School principal Ken Barker estimates he'll spend nearly one in four school days formally assessing his teachers.

Mr. Barker has about 40 teachers and he said each of their formal evaluations -- which now are once every five years -- take him nearly a full workday to complete.

Since state lawmakers voted last week to approve changes to K-12 education that include more-frequent formal evaluations, Mr. Barker wonders where he'll find the time.

"It will singularly be the most encompassing task that I have to do," he said. "It will take up the largest percentage of my time."

Mr. Barker said high school principals will face even larger challenges because they often have more than 100 teachers in their buildings.

Tennessee's application for federal Race to the Top stimulus money requires annual teacher evaluations, said state Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, a member of the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. Berke agreed that the current method of formal evaluations would be impossible to complete annually. A 15-member committee made up of teachers, a principal, the state education commissioner and legislators will determine a new method of evaluation, Sen. Berke said.

"I certainly don't want to micromanage what teacher evaluations look like," he said. "But most corporations do annual evaluations on their employees. We want to provide feedback to teachers, because I think teachers want to do a good job."

Current law also requires principals to evaluate teachers twice informally during a five-year period. Hamilton County Education Association President Sharon Vandagriff said principals often evaluate their teachers informally throughout the year.

A formal evaluation involves three in-class observations of at least 45 minutes, as well as pre- and post-evaluation conferences between the principal and teacher.

Nolan third-grade teacher Sandi Fain said she is not opposed to evaluations.

"It doesn't bother teachers to be evaluated in general," she said. "What bothers teachers is that they'll use 50 percent of that evaluation from" Tennessee Value-Added Assessment Score results.

The legislation bases 50 percent of the decision to grant teacher tenure on student test scores, including Tennessee Value-Added Assessment Score.

Fellow Nolan teacher Cindy Wilkerson said good principals regularly evaluate their teachers.

"Our principal is in our classroom on a regular basis. We're used to him coming in unannounced," she said. "It's of little concern to have (principals) come in and observe and watch what we're doing."

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about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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bapman1 said...

The fact is, teacher quality can be assessed, and Tennessee has one of the longest-running and most sophisticated tools for doing so: TVAAS (the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System). We can see how educators are contributing to student learning at the district, school, and even the individual teacher level. This is reliable data - far more reliable than classroom observations, which are a poor choice for tracking the connection between teaching and measurable learning outcomes.

There's more information on assessing teacher quality at and plenty on value-added assessment at

January 27, 2010 at 10:43 p.m.
kgauthier said...

It's true, there is an overwhelming amount of data. Thanks for those links. I'll make sure to check them out.

January 29, 2010 at 1:48 p.m.
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