published Monday, June 30th, 2014

Tennessee teacher evaluation proposals considered

NASHVILLE — Teachers who consistently score highly on annual state-mandated teacher evaluations may be able to bypass training requirements to advance or to renew licenses under a new policy to be considered by the State Board of Education today.

The Tennessean reported the board is also scheduled to take up a new teacher licensure policy that would satisfy directives given by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Lawmakers passed legislation during the last session to reverse a controversial initiative of Gov. Bill Haslam's administration that would have allowed student growth on tests to be used to revoke or not renew a teacher's license.

Haslam has since signed the revamped measure into law, and the Board of Education is expected to follow through on that directive.

In the case of changes to the way teachers renew their work licenses, the new system would lean on the state's Tennessee Evaluation Assessment Model, or TEAM system, giving teachers who score at least a 3 on the 1-through-5 scale for a series of years credit for some of the professional development needed for license renewal. This would give them an option to skip, for example, attending relevant conferences and completing coursework.

"It keeps a lot of the same principles from our current policy -- using professional development credits to advance or renew -- but it streamlines the process and it gives teachers more empowerment to use their performance data in a positive way," said Sara Heyburn, an assistant commissioner at the Department of Education.

The Tennessee Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, says it supports the bulk of the latest proposal but wasn't aware of the TEAM component.

"I think it's positive," said TEA President Gera Summerford. "It shows us that the state board took time to hear concerns from the superintendents group, the teachers group, the school boards group, and I think it's a good policy."

However, when later asked about the option to use evaluation scores in place of teacher training, Summerford, whose tenure as TEA president ends in July, said she didn't realize that provision made it in the final recommendation. She reserved judgment until reviewing it.

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