By Lisa Fingeroot | The Tennessean
Tennessee's new teacher evaluations -- criticized by educators as too time-consuming and by the state as ineffective -- are now faulted in a national ranking.
The state lost points because the law here does not prevent a child from having a bad teacher two years in a row and the public is not allowed to see teacher assessments, according to a report by Bellwether Education Partners.
The organization is part of the Walton Family Foundation, which spends more than $100 million a year to promote an education reform agenda that includes school choice through charter schools and vouchers.
The report comes just a week after the state Board of Education made some small changes to its year-old teacher evaluation system, primarily in the number of classroom visits teachers receive from evaluators.
The Tennessee Education Association, which represents teachers, has been told the evaluation system will require constant monitoring and tweaking, said Gera Summerford, president of the organization.
"We certainly support an evaluation process that promotes quality instruction and helps teachers improve," Summerford said. "What we want to see is a real investment in professional growth."
Even though last year's teacher scores were high overall, many teachers were frustrated with the process, Summerford said. Many felt they were marked down in certain areas but not given the training afterward that could help them increase that score.
The Bellwether report and the recent changes come on the heels of a state report released in July that said the new evaluation system failed to identify bad teachers and provide them with more training.
The changes were recommended after thousands of comments were collected from principals and teachers throughout the state.
The Bellwether report evaluated 21 states that have legislation related to teacher effectiveness. Tennessee ranked right in the middle of the list, with nine states scoring better and 10 scoring worse.
Tennessee was praised in the report for having "a strong evaluation framework and a streamlined process for dismissing teachers who are ineffective."
Tenure reform also garnered praise because the law ends the "last in, first out" policy for layoffs, and centers on teacher effectiveness. But the rules that tie performance to either gaining or losing tenure do not include teachers who had tenure before July 2011. The report suggests it should include all teachers.
Indiana received the highest ranking from the group because of its strong policies on opening evaluations to parents.
Contact Lisa Fingeroot at 615-259-8892 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LisaFingeroot.