Educators Want Lower Bar for Tenure, Fewer Observations for Good Teachers

After receiving mountains of mail from teachers, state lawmakers got the messages in person Wednesday. During a hearing about a new evaluation system, educators forecast a mass exodus from the profession if changes aren’t made.

While it sounds like semantics, the one-to-five grading scale is getting to some teachers. The Department of Education says a three is a “rock solid” teacher and that fives will be very rare. Bob Horne is principal of Christiana Middle School in Rutherford County.

“Imagine telling your students and their parents, ‘Johnny, I like you. I think you’re going to do well in my class. But don’t expect an A. It’s impossible.’ That’s pretty much what we’ve been told and our teachers have been told.”

Horne says the scale should be adjusted. And if the state truly considers a three to be “rock solid,” then those teachers should be offered tenure. Right now, it takes scoring fours and fives for two consecutive years.

Principals themselves are asking for some relief from the sheer number of classroom observations they’re now expected to complete. Horne suggests teachers who score well don’t need to be observed again that year.

Superintendents Stand Behind Evaluations

School superintendents are standing behind the new teacher evaluation system. The district officials say tweaks may be needed, but raising the bar on Tennessee teachers is already improving instruction.

Until this year, tenured teachers were only evaluated twice every decade. Director of Knox County Schools Jim McIntyre says he understands why they’re antsy from the additional oversight. He says many teachers view the evaluations as focused on accountability, not improvement.

“I think our primary focus has to be on teacher development and growth. Don’t get me wrong. There will be some teachers that because of this performance evaluation will be terminated or will fail to achieve tenure.”

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says he expects to make a few changes after the school year. But the legislature could beat him to it. While Democrats are more critical of the system than Republicans, who are in the majority, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are beginning to point out flaws.

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