As some teachers head back to schools, there are several big education changes districts have to adjust to.
Teachers at Norwood Elementary trained for these changes during a three hour training class held on Monday.
First are teacher evaluations, under the new systems teachers get an annual evaluation. They get a score ranging from one to five, one being the worst and five being the best.
Thirty-five percent of the score comes from students growth or how students improve on tests, like TCAP, over time. That is also known as the "value-added" score.
Fifteen percent of the score comes from student achievement. There are several options to measure this, such as graduation rate.
The remaining 50% of the score comes from classroom observation.
For tenured teachers, administrators will do four classroom observations per year. For non-tenured teachers, there are six classroom observations each year.
The new evaluation system is part of Tennessee's First to the Top Act. It also ties into the state's new tenure legislation.
Teachers are eligible for tenure are five years now, instead of three. The teachers then have to get an evaluation score of a four or five for two consecutive years before they are eligible for tenure.
Poor evaluation scores can also lead to teachers losing tenure. The evaluation system was a jumping off point for Knox County Schools and its new strategic compensation plan.
Up until now, all teachers were paid the same with adjustments for experience and advanced degrees. The new system rewards staff and schools with bonuses based on performance.
The teacher evaluations are going to make up 70% of a teachers "Performance Incentive" score. Twenty percent comes from teachers taking on leadership roles. The last 10% rewards teachers who stay in high need schools.
Knox County teachers recieve a score on a 100 point scale. If they get at least a 65, they can get a $1,500 bonus. If they get at least an 80, they can get a $2,000 bonus.
Co-President of the Oak Ridge Education Association, Steve Reddick, teaches at Jefferson Middle School. Reddick said many teachers are approaching the changes with guarded optimism.
"I think it's still a little bit early to know how morale is going to be this year. I think people are very concerned about the results from last year, about the new evaluation model from this year. It's not an unreasonable expectation for us to try to reach and teach every child and help them to achieve, you can't argue with that, but how we're going to do the heavy lift to get them over the bar," said Reddick.
All of these changes came during the past legislative session. Representative Bill Dunn is on the house education committee and helped shape the new laws.
The evaluation results are a matter of public record, and Dunn said this could have an impact on teachers. "Most teachers work hard at what they're doing because they love students. Obviously, when you're working and receiving public dollars, there's going to be public scrutiny. If you look at state employees, you can find out how much each person is making and that's just sort of the price you have to pay," said Dunn.
On Monday, The U.S. Secretary indicated he is open to offering waivers for schools that don't meet standards set in "No Child Left Behind."
Last month, Governor Haslam requested a waiver because of the number of schools not meeting their required yearly progress results. This Sunday on Inside Tennessee, the half hour show will focus on the changes to Knox County education.