Students and teachers will return from a much-needed two-week vacation Monday as spring break comes to an end in Wilson County for another year.
Now the real work and the final push begin.
As it stands now, students and teachers alike will have about a month’s worth of instruction time to prepare for the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests – or TCAP – that will be administered in late April in schools across Wilson County and Tennessee.
But should it be this way? Should all our proverbial eggs be placed such a small basket like this?
In Tuesday’s edition of The Democrat, we looked at a Lebanon Board of Education policy change. It was a mere formality for the board, which was already adhering to state laws regarding the TCAP since they were passed nearly two years ago.
The policy sets a comprehensive standard by which teachers are expected to maintain.
The board added the following language to its policy March 11: “The evaluation system measures both the quality of each teacher’s work in the classroom (qualitative) as well as what the students learn (quantitative) in order to present a comprehensive picture of the teacher’s effectiveness. Thirty-five percent of the rating is a measure of student growth over a year’s time, and 15 percent of the rating is student achievement relative to state standards.”
According to Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson, that 15 percent of the teachers’ overall score is based on how their students perform on the TCAP exam.
“There is definitely more pressure on teachers today and more accountability,” Benson said. “So much is affected in that one snapshot in time on TCAP day. Some of this policy change comes into play based on that one test. It’s difficult.”
According to Benson, two subpar years in a teacher’s career could mean dismissal.
“The definition of teacher inefficiency was expanded by the state legislature last year,” Benson said. “The definition includes two inefficient years, and that could affect tenure status and job status.”
Before the new laws went into effect, teachers could score lower one year and remain consistent the next five to have that grade erased from their file. That’s not the case now.
“If a teacher has multiple year’s data, the three- or two-year average shall be used to calculate the 1-5 TVAAS composite. If only one year’s data is available, it shall be used to calculate the 1-5 composite. Teacher effect data shall not be retained for use in evaluations for more than the most recent five years.”
Benson said more pressure is placed on Tennessee teachers than possibly ever before.
“Not just here, but across the state, you will have teachers who will have two years of ineffective scores [at the end of the school year],” Benson said. “It’s not an automatic, and it’s not left for chance, either. If you have ineffective scores as a teacher or a principal, you’re going to do everything you can to bring that up. Teachers and principals are going to seek as much help as they can to bring those scores up. It all comes down to the ultimate outcome, which is student learning.”
That same law also requires the TCAP to count as 20 percent of students’ spring semester grade. The purpose was to have students take the test more seriously than in the past since the TCAP is used to measure not only student, but also teacher, principal, school, district and state performance.
We are all for accountability among both students and teachers, but it’s simply too much to ask to place that much emphasis on just one test. Bad days, poor test takers or any number of factors could come into play.
We need a new system, and it’s needed immediately, for the sake – and sanity – of both our teachers and students.