Putting Education Reform To The Test

Tennessee Study Identifies Shortcomings In Teacher Evaluations


High school advanced calculus teacher, Orlando Sarduy, writes out the formula that will grade and help determine the pay of Florida teachers. Even for a college math major like him, the formula is too confusing to understand. He calls it a "mathematical experiment."

A report on Tennessee teacher evaluations could have big implications in Florida as well.

The report found Tennessee schools “systematically failed” to identify low-performing teachers through a combination of student test score improvement and principal evaluations, according to The Tennessean. Often, a principal’s evaluation and the teacher’s student testing score did not match.

Three-quarters of Tennessee teachers earned the highest scores of 4 or 5 on their principal’s evaluation, but just half of teachers earned a 4 or 5 based on test data.

The results were similar at the other end of the scale.

Principals awarded scores of 1 or 2 to just 2.5 percent of teachers. But 16 percent of teachers earned a 1 or 2 based on test scores.

Of those teachers who scored a 1 based on test scores, the average principal score was 3.6.

“Evaluators are telling teachers they exceed expectations in their observation feedback when in fact student outcomes paint a very different picture,” the report concludes. “This behavior skirts managerial responsibility.”

The Tennessee board of education could discuss changes later this month. The results could force Florida lawmakers and school districts to rethink evaluations.

The Florida Legislature has required school districts to develop a similar teacher evaluation system, with half the score dependent on student testing gains. Districts must develop a system to pay teachers based on performance by July 1, 2014.

Florida requires half a teacher’s evaluation is based on student testing gains over a three-year period. Districts can negotiate the other half of the evaluation with teachers, but it must be based on instructional practice or leadership.

The Tennessee report also highlights a problem with evaluating teachers who don’t teach currently tested subject areas, such as the arts or physical education. Those teachers are graded based on the school-wide testing averages.

The report says schools should develop tests to measure those students and teachers.

Florida faces the same issue, with school districts required to develop tests by 2014-2015 to measure all subject areas. That coincides with the switch to national Common Core standards and testing, which will replace the current Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The National Council on Teacher Quality has previously found problems with Miami-Dade school evaluations.

About half of Florida school districts have adopted an evaluation model developed by researcher Robert Marzano.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to delete incorrect information about Orange County’s teacher evaluations.



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