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Policy change puts teachers in spotlight
Mar 18, 2013 6:38 pm
Though a formality, the Lebanon Board of Education made a policy change recently that could affect hundreds of teachers statewide working to make passing grades.
The policy, officially added to the city school board’s books March 11, is actually one schools across Tennessee have been under for more than a year. The policy, called Teacher Effect Data, deals with how teachers – not students – are graded.
The policy went into effect at the beginning of the last school year and 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 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program exam to be given at the end of April.
“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.
The board removed the following wording from its policy:
“Teachers may opt to utilize their 1-5 score for another 15 percent of the formal evaluation process with the principal’s agreement.
“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.”
According to the Tennessee Board of Education, Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System is a statistical analysis of achievement data that reveals academic growth over time for students and groups of students, such as those in a grade level or in a school. TVAAS is a tool that gives feedback to school leaders and teachers on student progress and assesses the influence of schooling on that progress. It allows districts to follow student achievement over time and provides schools with a longitudinal view of student performance. TVAAS provides valuable information for teams of teachers to inform instructional decisions. TVAAS is not an additional student test, but a tool to help districts make data-driven decisions.
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.
And low-performance grades among teachers are something they now carry with them for life, which would make it much more difficult to be hired at another Tennessee school.
“If you’re a principal, that’s one of the things you are looking at,” Benson said. These scores are very important.”
Benson said the policy change was necessary but a mere formality since schools were operating under the new system since the beginning of school last year.
“I don’t think it had been updated since the new teacher evaluations were put in place,” he said. “We were getting them in line with those new evaluations that were passed about a year ago. We were updating the board policy to be in compliance with what the state is doing, and what we are doing.”
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.