Teachers deserve fair treatment
After reading "Grading the teachers" (Jan. 22), there is one thing we can agree on — teachers should be evaluated on student learning. Where we differ is how to best measure student learning. A fill-in-the-bubble standardized test given a few days near the end of a school year does not give an accurate picture of a student's progress or a teacher's effectiveness. There has been no need to fight back against TVAAS estimates until now since standardized test scores were previously used as a diagnostic tool for local districts, not as a basis for punishment for students or teachers. The State Board of Education and our education commissioner have now inappropriately tied student test scores to teacher licensure and a large portion of teacher evaluations. Our teachers deserve better than to be judged by inaccurate, unreliable TVAAS estimates. At the end of the day, if the substance of our criticism is legitimate -- and it is -- it doesn't matter when we started fighting back. What matters is that we correct the problem now. All professionals deserve an evaluation system that is fair, reliable, and transparent.
GERA SUMMERFORD, President Tennessee Education Association
Times editorial unfair to teachers
The Times page Jan. 22 editorial about teachers and education must somehow have been intended to appear on the Free Press "side." One cannot imagine a truly "Times editorial" being so shallow, so naive and so bereft of well-known education facts and figures. Moreover the "we" who wrote the piece adopted a position that has long been refuted by myriad studies and many highly qualified educators. Great teachers are wonderful and can make a difference. But it does not follow that ineffectual teachers can be ascertained by student outcome. The "we" who "would disagree" fell head-long under the spell of what has been called "the reign of error." In fact "The Reign of Error" is the title of the latest book about public education. It is authored by Diane Ravitch, an honest to goodness expert on the subject. The book is in our public library. Please read it. You owe us the duty to study a subject before you begin to pontificate.