93 22 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Changes could be coming to the process teachers navigate to renew their work licenses in Tennessee, including easier routes for those who perform well on annual evaluations.

But one component it won't include? Making student test scores a reason to stop a teacher from advancing in the profession.

The Tennessee General Assembly this spring swiftly passed legislation, pushed by the state's largest teachers union, to reverse a controversial policy of Gov. Bill Haslam's administration — set for implementation in 2015 — that would allow have allowed student growth on tests to be used to revoke or not renew a teacher's licenses.

It marked a clear repudiation of one of Haslam's most contested new education reforms, and an item the governor signed into law.

Two months later, the Tennessee State Board of Education on Monday is set to follow through on that directive. In the process, board members also will consider a revamped policy on first reading to enable teachers who consistently score highly on annual state-mandated teacher evaluations to bypass teacher training requirements to advance or to renew licenses.

"With the state board's position on the sort of policy they want to pass, and the additional direction of the General Assembly, we think this is a really reasonable place to be," said Sara Heyburn, an assistant commissioner at the Department of Education.

"It keeps a lot of the same principles from our current policy — using professional development credits to advance or renew — but it streamlines the process and it gives teachers more empowerment to use their performance data in a positive way."

The new system also would go into effect in September 2015.

It would lean on the state's Tennessee Evaluation Assessment Model, or TEAM system, giving teachers who score at least a 3 on the 1-through-5 scale for a series of years credit for some of the professional development needed for license renewal. This would give them an option to skip, for example, attending relevant conferences and completing coursework.

This latest element is the result of a separate new state law that has given Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman the ability to grant waivers of licensure requirements to teachers scoring "significantly above expectations" on each of their last three evaluations.

The impetus, according to state education officials: Reward good teachers by allowing them to eliminate tedious paperwork that must be submitted to prove professional development hours.

Unlike the measure that came under fire in the legislature, the Tennessee Education Association, the state's largest teachers organization, says it supports the bulk of the latest proposal but wasn't aware of the TEAM component.

"I think it's positive," TEA President Gera Summerford said. "It shows us that the state board took time to hear concerns from the superintendents group, the teachers group, the school boards group, and I think it's a good policy."

However, when later asked about the option to use evaluation scores in place of teacher training, Summerford, whose tenure as TEA president ends in July, said she didn't realize that provision made it in the final recommendation. She reserved judgment until reviewing it.

J.C. Bowman, executive director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee, said if teachers want to use evaluation scores instead of development credits, they should have that right. Some might not agree, though, he said.

"That may be contentious," Bowman predicted. "The state board may be reluctant to go down that path."

Though the altered proposal removes the tie to Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, other changes outlined in the policy the state board approved in August would remain untouched. Those include consolidating multiple license types into practitioner and professional licenses for the majority of teachers, and reducing the validity period of professional licenses from 10 years to six.

"That's a difference," Summerford said, "but that's not something that I think causes any trouble for educators."

The first professional license teachers receive, the practitioner's license, would retain the current three-year validity period.

Reach Joey Garrison at 615-259-8236 and on Twitter

93 22 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.wbir.com/1lpVQIR