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Huffman: Teacher Feedback On Evaluations Sought

The state’s education commissioner says it’s unfair for critics of the new system for grading educators to charge that he and his staff are favoring the opinions of principals over teachers.

Tennessee’s education commissioner says it’s unjustified for critics of the new teacher evaluation system to suggest the department is favoring principals’ feedback over teachers’.

“I actually don’t think that’s fair. We’ve actually talked to thousands of teachers across the state,” Commissioner Kevin Huffman said Wednesday after speaking before a legislative committee about the evaluations.

“Just in the last two months, people on my staff have talked to nearly 2,000 teachers in different forums where they’ve had feedback from lots and lots of teachers,” he told TNReport.

The department began using a new evaluation system this school year that requires school officials to observe and grade teachers four times a year. The system also factors in student scores on standardized tests, which accounts for 35 percent of the teacher’s rating. This has frustrated some teachers in subjects like history and music, which are not tested, because they will be evaluated on scores they have no control over.

Teachers are rated on a scale from 1 to 5, and persistently low scores can mean no tenure or be cause for dismissal.

Some teachers say they’ve been told it’s nearly impossible to score a 4 or 5 on their evaluation.

Huffman told lawmakers on Capitol Hill the department is likely to continue to tweak the system, but has so far decided that administrators should be able to lump two of those observations together in one sitting to save time.

The evaluations are based on a formula lawmakers approved in 2010 to qualify for $500 million in education funds from the federal Race to the Top grant.

“Often times, very good ideas in theory don’t work out in their execution and implementation,” Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, chairman of the Government Operations Committee, said.

“It appears to me that we’ve addressed some of the concerns the principals had, and you said you’re going to tweak this, but if we can make it a better system, and not so burdensome on teachers and let teachers teach, I think we’ll be better off in the long run,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, told the committee.

Senate Education Chairwoman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, said in a news release Wednesday work on other fronts, such as asking the state to let Tennessee opt out of the federal No Child Left Behind standards, prove the DOE is “actively listening to advice and working to find solutions to ensure fairness in how our education system is evaluated under the federal law.”

“There never will be a perfect evaluation system,” Huffman countered to lawmakers. “If we try to aspire to have a perfect evaluation system, we will never get there.”

5 replies on “Huffman: Teacher Feedback On Evaluations Sought”

To Whom It May Concern:

I am stll in process of a critique and solutions for a nationwide bankrupt system of education. I am doing this in my spare time and is taking a lot of hours and investigation.

I have heard from teachers and principals that the evaluation system is overly burdensome and takes away from the main focus of teaching students,

I realize it is easy to criticize and more difficult to offer options. I think we are all in agreement that education has greatly degraded over the past 50 years. I am trying to identify the causes and offer solutions. This is a labor of love for my grandchildren.

As soon as I can, I will complete my investigation and proffer solutions. I will send to Governor Haslam and Senator Overbey when it is completed.

Pastor Buddy Kemner

I do not believe education has degraded as you state. One huge issue is people trying to place education in a nutshell and saying that yes this is the one thing wrong. You must investigate the degradation of our society and the rise in POVERTY. There is not just one factor that affects a system nor the institution of education. I do not believe education has degraded at all. If anything we now have many more teachers with advanced degrees teaching in our schools. Read the research that debunks the theory of using a singular test score to determine teacher effectiveness. When reformers began to take people and relationships out of the equation they lost a critical piece of what makes schools excellent.
Why in the world do they think all children will learn the same and make the same gains? That is the most ignorant thing I have ever heard. Just look to nature for that answer. Why isn’t every apple on the same tree the same size, the same degree of sweetness, ripen at the same rate? I certainly hope your investigation includes many teacher interviews and visiting schools. Go at lunchtime and watch the children socialize, between classes, and in class. The culture of the school is just as important if not more important than anything. Strong, effective leadership in the schools is a must. Principals set the tone and the expectations. Read Quality Schools. And for goodness sake, inject some common sense.

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