Friday, September 30, 2011

Republicans Get One Right !

Teacher Evaluations Questioned as Time-Consuming
By Jane Roberts
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Posted September 29, 2011

Tennessee Legislators across the state say the new process for teacher evaluations -- starting this year -- happened too fast and needs to slow down before teachers and principals rise up in revolt.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is mapping out scenarios they expect the legislature to consider when it convenes in January, including delaying or modifying the evaluations, the centerpiece of the state's $500 million Race to the Top allotment. "We need to evaluate what is in place and what has been put in place," said Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett. "I am very concerned about what is going on with evaluations and how they are being conducted," he said, adding that lawmakers understood the bill they passed in 2010 would not take away from teachers' time in the classroom. "It looks far more complicated than it was intended to be. It takes more teacher time, more administrative time, which means it takes away from the classroom," Lollar said. Under the new model, tenured teachers who were observed once every five years are now being observed and critiqued four times a year. Apprentice teachers must be observed six times a year. In Memphis City Schools, that means 500 certified administrators will conduct 29,000 observations -- each at least 15 minutes long -- followed by the estimated 30 minutes it will take to compile the details and share reflections with teachers. MCS teachers and officials say there is little rancor in the city system because teachers were invited to design its own metric. But in Shelby County Schools, teacher Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, said it took him nine hours to prepare lesson plans for a 50-minute history course at Bolton High. "The paperwork is going to be overwhelming," he said, adding that lawmakers were assured the change would require less paperwork and less time. "That is not going to be the case. People are anxious and sooner or later, they will change it. It's an unrealistic goal." Teachers and boards of education are also lobbying Nashville for proof that teachers have a reasonable chance of scoring high enough on the 1-5 matrix to keep their jobs. Under a law passed last session, tenured teachers could lose seniority if they dip below 4 or 5. Apprentice teachers must score that high in the final two years of their five-year probation or leave the profession. "When you have got teachers who have been doing excellent work for many, many years, going that extra mile, and they are told they probably only going to be a three, which is rock solid, but not a four or five, that is demoralizing to those people," said House Education Committee chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville. "We've got to clear this up and make sure they are recognized for the work they do. I have voiced my concerns to the commissioner," he said. State Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman e-mailed assurances to teachers statewide last week, admitting the "system is not perfect" but saying it is a significant step toward improving student achievement. In a video posted to the Department of Education website, he said the state would be analyzing the scores. Administrators in schools or districts "not identifying 4's or 5's" will be immediately flagged for retraining "to ensure that we have alignment about expectations." But he also says teachers should expect changes over the summer.
"We will make some changes and continue to tweak the system," he said. Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, wonders where administrators will find time to conduct all the evaluations. "If you've got a school with 70 teachers, that is not unusual in Memphis, you have four evaluations times 70 teachers, which is 280 in 180 days.
"When are you running the school? When are you doing other things like planning class schedules or sending truancy letters?" he asked. "It's going to take teachers to stand up and say no, this is not working. School boards and superintendents are going to have to back them up and say 'this is causing problems.'"

Jane Roberts: (901) 529-2512

Editorial : Republicans and Democrats get this one RIGHT ! Give credit where it is due !

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hate to tell you this, but teacher evaluations can be highly political. If the principal/superintendent/school board likes you, you can get high marks, and if not, then you get low marks. If you are a popular teacher, you can keep a job. Otherwise, even if you are a great teacher, you can fail your evaluations. I am a former teacher and I have seen this firsthand... I have seen teachers who were in the system for over 30 years get fired for "incompetence..." How can that be? Anyway, I agree with you on this one. This is a typical case of the state getting too involved in trying to make local decisions. Education decisions should be made at the local level.