Teachers to get break on school-wide data

11:45 AM, Jan 23, 2013   |    comments
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Music instructors, school librarians and many elementary school teachers could catch a break in their next review under legislation now in the works at the state Department of Education.

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told state lawmakers Tuesday that his staff is writing a bill that would reduce the importance of school-wide test scores in the evaluations of teachers who teach grades or subjects that are not measured with standardized tests.

Under statewide education reforms passed in 2011, 35 percent of those teachers' annual review had been determined using the average test scores of all the students at the school where they teach. Because tenure decisions and pay have been tied to teachers' performance on their reviews, teachers organizations complained that the methodology is unfair.

"A number of teachers would be in that category where the data attached to them are from a whole bunch of students that they don't teach," said Gera Summerford, president of the Tennessee Education Association.

Huffman said the department does not plan to do away with the use of school-wide data entirely. He said officials will recommend reducing its importance within the grading formula and let evaluators use "qualitative" measurements instead.

The department will release its plan within the next few weeks, Huffman said. The proposal comes as Gov. Bill Haslam is finalizing his legislative plan for the 2013 session, but Huffman said it is unclear whether the department's bill would be included.

The switch would have an impact on teachers of students in kindergarten through the third grade, none of whom take standardized tests. The change would also effect those who teach subjects that are not tested, including the arts, and other educators who work at a school but have no students of their own, such as librarians.

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education, a Nashville-based nonprofit, recommended reducing the importance of school-wide scores in a report released this summer. Haslam had asked SCORE to gather feedback from teachers and other educators on how well education reforms he and former Gov. Phil Bredesen had implemented were working.

Contact Chas Sisk at csisk@tennessean.com.

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