SCORE to Score TN Teacher Evaluation Process

Citing several months of complaints from teachers about new state-mandated evaluations, Gov. Bill Haslam is calling in a third-party education advocate to sort out the new system.

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education has agreed to independently grade the state’s new evaluation process and report back by this summer with feedback and recommendations to be used going into the 2012-13 school year.

“Any time you implement something that’s this comprehensive, I think if you don’t consistently re-evaluate it, you’re not doing your job,” Haslam told reporters after a press conference announcing the partnership at the Capitol Building Wednesday.

“We knew this is going to be a huge rollout, and we knew there would be some people that didn’t necessarily take to it very well, and we knew that we would be evaluating the evaluations,” he said.

SCORE has been involved in several Tennessee education initiatives, including advocating for data-driven teacher evaluations. The nonprofit, bipartisan organization is run by Jamie Woodson, a former Republican senator from Knoxville who bowed out this year to become the group’s executive director. She took over for former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, also a Republican, who launched the organization in 2009.

School districts across the state began using the new annual evaluations this schools year, which include grading teachers based on a mix of student test scores and classroom evaluations and scoring them on a five-point scale. Previously, teachers were heavily evaluated in the three years prior to earning tenure, sporadically after that point.

“The implementation and execution of these reform efforts are truly where the rubber meets the road,” said Woodson, who said SCORE will facilitate roundtable discussions with teachers across the state in addition to soliciting feedback online. “Critical to our mission and to success of this effort is the opportunity for feedback and input from educators and community members throughout the state.”

Haslam said SCORE’s advocacy work for a teacher evaluation system is an asset, not a bias.

“It’s not a question of should we have (the teacher evaluation system). It’s a question of, is the one that we have working well, and I think that’s what we’ve tasked (SCORE) with,” Haslam told reporters.

House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh applauded the governor’s call to study the new evaluation, but said he should also put the system on pause.

“The Legislature rushed this evaluation process, and in many situations it has been to the detriment of Tennessee’s teachers and students,” wrote Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, in an emailed statement. “I hope that the governor and the Legislature agree that we need to delay the evaluations until a thorough bi-partisan review is complete.”

While SCORE picks through the evaluation process, Haslam said he wants the Legislature to avoid passing bills that would change the current process, saying any adjustments should go through the Board of Education.

Halams has also, in recent weeks, asked the Legislature to take a pass on legislation that would allow students to transfer to a public, charter or private school using vouchers while a task force — which includes Woodson — studies that concept.