Tennessee panel urges flexibility in using student test scores

Tennessee panel urges flexibility in using student test scores

June 12th, 2012 by Kevin Hardy in News

Document: SCORE-Evaluation-Report

Tennessee SCORE-Evaluation-Report


• Ensure current and prospective educators are trained in the evaluation system

• Link teacher feedback with individualized high-quality professional learning for teachers

• Re-engage educators in those districts where teacher evaluation implementation has faltered and where school leaders still don't see the value of evaluation

• Address challenges to current quantitative and qualitative measures of student effectiveness, including offering flexibility in the weighting of student test scores

Source: State Collaborative on Reforming Education

Tennessee's teacher evaluation system might rely less on student test scores as officials examine ways to improve the system, still in its first year of implementation.

On Monday, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, known as SCORE, released its findings and recommendations from a statewide review of the teacher evaluation program. One of the seven recommendations suggested that the state offer flexibility in how it weights student test scores in evaluations.

Teacher evaluation was a keystone piece of a 2011 legislative reform package meant to improve K-12 education in Tennessee. The new system, which started in the fall, requires more classroom observations and links teacher effectiveness to student tests for the first time.

Half a teacher's score is derived from qualitative measures such as classroom observations, while the other half stems from quantitative measures such as student tests scores. But about two-thirds of Tennessee's teachers don't generate their own scores because they teach untested grades or subjects such as art, physical education or music.

In its report, SCORE recommends the state continue to create assessments for these subjects that can shed light on an individual teacher's performance. But in the meantime, it suggests temporarily decreasing the weighting of test data for these teachers and relying more on the qualitative measures.

That idea may address one of the key shortcomings of the evaluation system, but it also creates inequity in the way teachers are measured, said Sandy Hughes, president of the Hamilton County Education Association.

Hughes, a high school Latin teacher on leave for her union duties, said she might like not having to rely on the student achievement data, but the math teacher next door may resent being stuck with his students' test scores.

"He would think I was getting a better deal," she said. "It could cause trouble among the rank and file."

SCORE's study of the evaluation model relied on in-depth interviews, teacher roundtables and thousands of online questionnaires to come up with a list of common challenges and successes. The review, funded by SCORE, was ordered by Gov. Bill Haslam in December after mounting complaints from teachers and administrators over the evaluations.

About 82 percent of Tennessee teachers are evaluated under a state evaluation model, while Hamilton County uses its locally created Project COACH, one of three alternative models being used across the state.

Despite the challenges, SCORE leaders said all four evaluation models have sparked a continuous dialogue in schools focused on improving teaching and learning.

"We heard across the state and across all four evaluation models that educators have clear and more rigorous expectations," said Sharon Roberts, Chief Operating Officer for SCORE.

In a statement, the governor said he would consider the report's findings, along with the upcoming findings of an internal review by the Tennessee Department of Education, as he continues to examine teacher evaluation.

"We want to support and reward effective teachers and are committed to making the evaluation system as strong as it can be," Haslam said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at 423-757-6249 or khardy@timesfreepress.com.