Fifteen people are eager to begin work on reshaping the way thousands of teachers in Tennessee are evaluated and granted tenure, officials said.
"There's a fast timeline on this," said former Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jesse Register, who now heads the Metro-Nashville school system. "It's a massive undertaking."
Dr. Register was one of nine people Gov. Phil Bredesen added to the statewide committee charged with revamping teacher evaluations. They join six others, including four state officials and one appointment each from the House and Senate speakers. The group will tackle details of what many consider the most controversial elements of the changes legislators approved.
After naming his appointments, the governor told them they'd be working from now until July to develop a pilot teacher evaluation system.
Dr. Register, who resigned from his position with Hamilton County Schools in 2006, is the only schools superintendent on the committee.
Tennessee's Commissioner of Education Tim Webb is leading the group, which will meet in Nashville, possibly as often as once a week, said Amanda Anderson, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. The first meeting has not been scheduled.
* Jimmy Bailey, principal in Jackson-Madison County Schools
* Harry Brooks, chairman of Tennessee House Education Committee
* Pam East, teacher at Scales Elementary School
* Mike Edwards, president and CEO of the Development Corp. of Knox County
* Darrell S. Freeman, Sr., Nashville businessman
* Dolores Gresham, chairwoman of the Tennessee Senate Education Committee
* Tomeka R. Hart, member of the Memphis City Schools Board of Education
* Kenny Lou Heaton, teacher in Carter County Schools
* Patty T. Kiddy, teacher in McNairy County Schools
* Jill Levine, principal of Normal Park Museum Magnet School
* Rep. Mark Maddox, technology coordinator for Weakley County Schools
* Gary Nixon, executive director of the Tennessee Board of Education
* Jesse Register, director of Metro-Nashville Public Schools
* Judy Stewart, teacher in Franklin County Schools
* Tim Webb, Tennessee education commissioner
Source: Tennessee Department of Education
At a special legislative session in January, Tennessee lawmakers enacted sweeping changes to teacher evaluation and tenure, mostly as a way to improve the state's chances of winning federal Race to the Top money.
Regardless of whether Tennessee is awarded the $501 million for which officials applied, the education changes have been voted into state law.
The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday announced that Tennessee is one of 15 states and the District of Columbia that are finalists in the competition. Winners will be announced in April.
Normal Park Museum Magnet principal Jill Levine, one of two principals appointed to the committee, said she already has received many phone calls and e-mails about the committee's work.
"My hope is that I'll be able to collect the voice of many and take them with me to Nashville," she said. "If we do our job, the evaluation process should ensure that every child in every school is getting access to an excellent teacher and a high-quality education."
She declined to give specifics about her own ideas, saying she hopes to solicit opinions from local teachers over coffee meet-ups.
"As (evaluation) becomes more data-driven, it's important that we keep our focus on ... what can be qualified," she said. "It's always important to be fair to teachers in the evaluation process and consider as many things as possible."
Dr. Register said the changes are more focused on identifying ways to improve teaching, not weeding out ineffective teachers.
"I think there's an opportunity for really developing a system here that can improve the quality of teaching in all of our schools ... that is transformational and not just a reworking of a system that, in many people's eyes, does not work very well," he said. "Such a narrow part of it is identifying poor performance."