I’ve been following – and blogging about – Tennessee’s efforts to measure teacher performance and link that performance to compensation and promotion. While I recognize that “the devil is in the details”, I’m inclined to favor such efforts, or at any rate to think that we should all we watching wat transpires in Tennessee closely.
Here’s what today’s Wall Street Journal reports. Sorry about the long quote, but I know that it’s often hard for non-subscribers to link to complete articles.
Many states have begun to link teachers’ pay to their effectiveness in the classroom. On Friday, Tennessee joined a handful that are taking the idea further: pull the license of teachers whose students consistently fail to improve.
“This is not about taking away teacher licenses, but about making sure our students have the best classroom teachers,” said Kevin Huffman, the state’s education commissioner.
The state board of education gave preliminary approval to the proposal in June. Amid debate in a telephone meeting on Friday, the board approved the measure 6-3, but delayed implementation by a year, to August 2015.
Fielding Rolston, chairman of state board of education, said the delay would give the state time to work through lingering concerns about using the state’s complicated formula for assessing teachers’ contributions to student achievement in license renewals.
“As you can appreciate, it’s not a straightforward formula,” he said. “I think it is the best measure that we have out there for value added by teacher.”
Over the past three years, many states have started linking teacher evaluations to test-score improvements and other measures of student performance. But only Rhode Island, Louisiana and Delaware have tied some teaching-license renewals to these evaluations, according to Sandi Jacobs of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and advocacy group that supports grading teachers on classroom effectiveness.
In many states, teachers renew their licenses after completing a number of professional development course-credit hours, or by earning a master’s degree.
But research has shown that, for the most part, neither boosts teacher effectiveness as measured by growth in student achievement, said Jane Hannaway, director of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, a federally funded nonpartisan research center.
Under the new policy in Tennessee, teachers must show they are boosting student achievement or they would lose their teaching license.
For a third of K-12 educators, the measuring stick would be the standardized state exams given to students. The remaining teachers, such as those in art or physical education, would be judged on other measures, such as portfolios of student work.
Gera Summerford, president of the Tennessee Education Association, said her union group isn’t opposed to using student achievement as one factor in license renewal, but said the current plan gives too much weight to the state’s measure of student growth, which she described as “complicated and problematic.”
But Ms. Hannaway said states should focus on creating the best pool of teachers possible. “If there are teachers who look risky, you really don’t want students to bear that risk,” she said.
The licensing proposal is part of a broader effort by Mr. Huffman, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in 2011, to improve Tennessee public schools, whose students lag behind national averages on math and reading exams.
Tennessee tied evaluations to student test scores, did away with collective bargaining by teachers and made it harder for them to earn tenure. In June, the state adopted a policy requiring school districts to create teacher-pay plans less reliant on years of service and additional degrees, and more dependent on factors such as working in hard-to-staff schools and student test scores.
Andrea Brinker, a second-year teacher at Bellevue Middle School in Nashville, said the new plan should have been enacted years ago.
“Teachers expect their students to perform at the level of proficiency,” she said, “and, it may sound harsh, but teachers who cannot live up to that same accord should not be teaching.”
So what do you think?