Today is Thursday, July 27, 2017

Educators seek changes in evaluation system

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A panel consisting of local educators, administrators and elected officials discussed legislation changes that have affected the state's education system this year.

Its better than what we had but we probably went too far the other way, Davis said, regarding the new evaluations.

Davis said principals observe every teacher at their school at least four times a year with one yearly evaluation. He called the number of observations excessive, but said the new system has improved teaching and learning.

I believe we went a little too far, Pody said about the evaluation systems. He said a bill that he proposed would have allowed principals to determine the number of observations necessary for high-scoring teachers.

However, he said fellow legislators and Gov. Bill Haslam told him the bill would not be able to get the adequate support and Pody dropped the proposal. He said Haslam has listened to local teachers and administrators on the topic in many meetings.

One such meeting was held between the governor and local teachers, administrators and SCORE officials. Pody said Haslam has asked SCORE to conduct an independent study on the new evaluation systems.

Roberts, former Lebanon Special School District director of schools, said the new evaluation system is a product of Tennessee receiving Race to the Top funds from the Federal government.

Policy changes needed to be made to apply to receive that money, Roberts said.

Prior to the changes, Roberts called the old system of evaluation worthless with teacher evaluations occurring so sparingly, often only once every five years. She said prior to these changes, when she looked at evaluation data across the country, most teachers were either good or great.

Roberts said SCORE officials have been holding forums across the state to hear from teachers and administrators about the effectiveness of the evaluation models as well as their shortcomings.

She said there are four evaluation models in Tennessee and the Wilson County School System is currently using the state model while LSSD is one of 11 districts using the TIGER model.

We need to talk to teachers, we need to hear the teachers voice, we need to hear the principals voice, Roberts said.

She pointed out evaluations are used to hold teachers accountable and to show teachers ways in which they can grow and improve. Roberts pointed out some models and evaluation techniques may work in one district but not in another.

SCORE has also been conducting an online survey for teachers and principals to participate and provide feedback on the evaluation systems. She said they have had 15,000 responses thus far.

From a principals perspective, Kegley said the new evaluation systems are very time consuming but noted the conversations have changed in her school and others. She said the TIGER model is evidence-based and allows teachers to look at things they do that may be working or may not be working.

This is something that you can take hold of and use to become a better teacher, Kegley said.

Kegley noted she has 32 teachers to evaluate at Winfree-Bryant and said she spends an hour-and-a-half at the beginning of every school year in one-on-one discussions with the teachers. She also performs multiple observations throughout the year as well as the primary evaluation at the end of the year.

Due to how much time she spends with evaluations, Kegley said she has had to utilize her time away from school and after school to prepare for those observations and do additional work to keep up with the new system.

That is one of the issues that needs to be addressed, she said.

Johnson, a teacher in the Wilson County Schools system for 35 years, was highly critical of the new evaluation system, calling it outstandingly punitive. A French teacher at MJHS, he said the size of the rubric puts a strain on principals and an unfair microscope on teachers.

It has created a great deal of suspicion, it has created a great deal of stress, Johnson said.

He noted one piece of the evaluation rubric lists about 70 topics and individual items that a principal uses to judge a teachers effectiveness. He said with the small amount of time principals spend in the classroom much of what he does as a teacher cannot be seen during the observations.

I dont think theres a teacher alive that can get a true 5 on any one of these things, Johnson said.

He was critical of the fact that 50 percent of a teachers evaluation is based on a principals observations. He also said, the other 50 percent is based on things I cannot control.

Johnson pointed out 35 percent of the evaluations are based on standardized tests administered to students at the end of the school year, with student performance accounting for that percentage of the evaluation. He also said another 15 percent is based on areas a teacher can choose from, identifying criteria to be judged on or areas in which they wish to grow.

I chose the average ACT score, because our school has pretty good ACT scores, Johnson said.

He questioned whether a standardized test that does not cover the subject he teaches could be properly used to determine his effectiveness as a teacher. He also used the ACT scores as an example of some teachers being evaluated on things they cannot control.

Roberts said Tennessee is ahead of other states in implementing their new evaluation systems and noted those states are going to learn from what transpires here. She said SCORE has to present its study to Haslam by June 1 and the governor will then take their findings under advisement.

In our system, it has improved education, I think were also improving instruction, said LSSD Interim Director of Schools Scott Benson, who was in attendance.

The majority of the panel felt the evaluations were a positive step in the right direction and had many admirable qualities, but agreed tweaks and adjustments needed to be made so the state doesnt move from one extreme to another.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at

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