Tennessee Teachers Don’t Hate The New Evaluations As Much As They Used To

Tennessee's new teacher evaluation system was implemented after the state won $501 million from the federal Race to the Top grant program. The first year for the increase observation and scoring was 2011. Credit: US Dept of Education via Flickr

Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system was implemented after the state won $501 million from the federal Race to the Top grant program. The first year for the increase observation and scoring was 2011. Credit: US Dept of Education via Flickr

Tennessee’s public school teachers are finding that a new evaluation system isn’t as bad as they once feared. Vanderbilt Peabody College has collected feedback from thousands of teachers since the ramped-up observations began in 2011. The latest survey was released Wednesday.

There’s been a big jump in the number of teachers who perceive the observations as fair. And more instructors are starting to see the evaluations as helping them improve instead of simply judging their skills.

“I guess you can say we’re more relaxed with it now,” says Rutherford County elementary school teacher Emily Mitchell. “The problem is, it’s still very subjective.”

Mitchell – who also heads the local education association – says at 50 years old, she’s decided it’s not worth trying to hit all of the benchmarks administrators are looking for.

“Does that get me a better score? No,” she says. “But it’s something I can live with. And I know I’m doing my best.”

However, this year’s survey of 26,000 teachers finds fewer cynics. The number agreeing with the statement, ”the evaluation process used in my school takes more effort than the results are worth,” dropped by 10 points.

Also among this year’s findings (from TN Consortium):

  • Both teachers and observers perceived the teacher evaluation processes more positively in 2013 than in 2012.
  • Teachers surveyed in 2013 were more likely than teachers in 2012 to perceive the feedback from teaching observations to be more focused on helping them improve their practice than on judging their performance.
  • Teachers in 2013 were more likely than teachers in 2012 to agree that evaluation processes would improve their teaching and improve student achievement.
  • Teachers who perceived the feedback from teaching observations to be primarily focused on helping them improve generally had more positive attitudes about their evaluation systems.
  • More than half of responding teachers still believe that the process of evaluating their teaching takes more effort than the results are worth.
  • Most of the teacher respondents reported that the feedback they received from teaching observations included recommendations targeted to help them improve performance. However, nearly half of teachers reported that their evaluator never followed up about areas in need of improvement.

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