published Saturday, November 5th, 2011

State Board of Education adjusts teacher evaluations

NASHVILLE — The State Board of Education has unanimously approved minor changes in the state’s new teacher evaluation program.

One change is aimed at streamlining time-constrained principals’ meetings with teachers both before and after they conduct multiple personal observations of educators’ classroom performance.

Another seeks to ensure personal observation scores don’t get out of line with other evaluation components such as student achievement scores.

“It’s in response to feedback that we’re hearing from the field even in the early stages of implementation,” Sarah Heyburn, an Education Department policy adviser, told the board during a meeting Friday.

The changes do not appear to affect the Hamilton County school system, which uses a different model for observations.

Teachers and principals have been complaining about the new system, initially approved by state lawmakers in 2010 as part of Tennessee’s successful bid for a $500 million grant in federal Race to the Top funds.

Under the original evaluation plan, principals must observe new teachers six times per year and tenured teachers four times. The board-approved change lets principals conduct two observations on a teacher back-to-back. Those can occur the same day or over two days.

Principals would then be able to follow up with one conference with the teacher rather than two, cutting time.

Lawmakers approved Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal that school districts use the new evaluations, which go into effect this year, to make decisions about teacher tenure.

Earlier this week, the House Education Committee heard from critics who said the process is moving too quickly and its impact on tenure should be delayed.

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman defended the new requirements, saying changes can be made as needed.

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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