Parents and taxpayers would not have access to teacher scoring data under a bill that has passed both chambers of the Tennessee Legislature.
The Senate gave its unanimous support to SB3024 Monday, requiring that estimates of teacher effectiveness gleaned from student’s TCAP tests, be kept confidential. The House version of the bill passed that chamber last week by a vote of 95-0.
The bill’s sponsor, Senate Education Committee chairwoman Dolores Gresham, said that schools and state government will be able to use the information to “hone the curriculum such that it serves students better.”
Gresham said it’s “too early to tell” if disclosing that information to the public would have a negative effect.
“Perhaps once teachers are confident in the evaluation process,” she said. “It’s too new, right now, for some folks, although I think we’re going in the right direction. I think perhaps, later on, when teachers have more confidence, that they’ll be able to support that.”
The state’s new evaluation system has been met with mixed reviews from the education community and the public and is currently being evaluated by the State Collaborative for Reforming Education (SCORE) at the request of Gov. Bill Haslam. A report from the group is due June 1.
The Department of Education’s evaluation team has met with over 6,200 educators across Tennessee, gathering feedback on the new system, according to a report given earlier Monday to a joint subcommittee. The feedback will be included in the department’s own report, which will be submitted to the legislature by July 15.
Teachers appreciate the feedback and knowing where they can improve, said Emily Barton, the department’s assistant commissioner for curriculum and instruction, but they also want to be sure the evaluation model is fair.
Under the scoring system, teachers are rated 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Fifty percent of the score is based on observations, 35 percent is based on a measure called value-added of how much students learn year over year, and 15 percent comes from student achievement information. The teacher rating system is being used for the first time this school year and stems from the state’s winning $501 million in the federal Race to the Top competition two years ago.
As for whether or not the evaluations should be made public, Barton said there are educators on both sides of the issue but declined to venture a guess as to which way the majority leans.
“Teachers have strong opinions about this, on both fronts, actually,” she said. “We and the governor support the legislation to maintain privacy with that information at this time.”
Though some educators may differ, the Tennessee Education Association is unwavering in its position.
“We generally support transparency, the public’s right to know. But the problem with this situation is, that would be putting a great deal more credibility on these teacher evaluations than we think it deserves,” said Jerry Winters, the chief lobbyist for the state’s largest teachers’ union.
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions about it. What you’re doing is ranking teachers 1 to 5 with a system that has a lack of confidence by the vast majority of teachers in the state. So that’s our problem with putting it out on the front page of newspapers, when we think it’s not accurate information.”