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Dykes expresses concern over state’s new evaluation legislation

Beginning in 2012, teachers in Tennessee will find themselves being evaluated in a new way.
Students’ standardized test scores will now reflect even more on teachers, becoming 35 percent of an educator’s entire evaluation. A yet to be chosen statewide panel will determine an additional 15 percent of evaluation criteria, while the other 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will not change. That 50 percent is based on a series of classroom observations.
“In order for Tennessee to qualify for the $500 million available from the federal economic stimulus funds, we had to do (evaluations this way),” Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes said. “So, now it’s law. But, even if we don’t receive a nickel in federal funding, the new plan for evaluation applies.”
Dykes recently met with the state commissioner of education to learn more about the recently-passed legislation that requires teachers be evaluated by standardized test scores.
Dykes expressed concern that the new method of evaluating teachers will take a considerable amount more time. Due to a new requirement included in the legislation, formal evaluations be done annually instead of every three years.
“It takes about 10 to 15 manhours per teacher for a formal evaluation,” Dykes said. “With 650 teachers in Washington County’s school system, 6,500 to 9,750 manhours will need to be spent on evaluations (each year). That responsibility falls directly on the principals of each school.”
While at least 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must come from the standardized test scores, a teacher may choose for 50 percent of his or her evaluation to come from the scores or may choose from other criteria yet to be determined for the other 15 percent, according to Dykes.
A 15-member panel has been put together at the state level to determine what that criteria will include. According to the Tennessee Education Assessment Commission, the panel has been directed to “develop and recommend to the state board of education guidelines and criteria for the annual evaluation of teachers and principals; develop and recommend to the State Board of Education a local-level evaluation grievance procedure; challenges to evaluations are limited to the accuracy of the data used in the evaluation and adherence to evaluation procedures.”
The panel includes the Commissioner of Education who will serve as the chair of the committee; the executive director of the State Board of Education; chairpersons of the education committees of each house; a K-12 public school teacher appointed by the Speaker of the House and by the Senate leader; and nine members appointed by the governor. Those nine members include public school teachers, public school principals, a director of a school district, members representing ‘other stake-holders interests,’ and at least one parent of a currently enrolled public school student.
“So far, we have received nothing in writing concerning definitive criteria and the true evaluation instrument to be used,” Dykes said. “The state of Tennessee has jumped into another grandiose plan for improving education with both feet. It will take a Herculean feat to change the curriculum to the extend they want. For us to be successful without adequate funding and resources is unrealistic.”