A new teacher evaluation system is set to kick in across the state in six months, even though parts of it haven't been written and principals haven't been trained how to use it.
Tennessee's legislature passed it a year ago as part of an education reform initiative that secured $500 million in federal Race to the Top grant money.
Critics said the old evaluation system, which monitored most tenured teachers once every five years, left too many ineffective teachers in the classroom too long, was vague and largely didn't help teachers improve. The new system will judge teachers and principals using student learning gains — called value-added scores — along with a prescribed checklist to determine their placement, pay and, ultimately, whether they will keep their jobs.
Forty-nine schools across the state, including some in Sumner County and Metro Nashville, are field-testing parts of the new system. But with many specifics still undecided, state officials say they hope educators will be patient.
"I'm sure there are some across the state who have expressed concern, but we're focused on getting this done," said Patrick Smith, acting education commissioner.
Fifty percent of teachers' evaluations will be based on student achievement. Of that, 35 percent is their classes' value-added scores, taken from students' standardized testing. The remaining 15 percent is a measure the school chooses, such as the graduation rate or something from a list of other options the state is expected to adopt in the coming weeks.
"This is not a way to point fingers at anyone, but the intention is to provide helping hands to drive instruction," Smith said.
The other 50 percent will come from a principal's classroom observation, but the state has yet to choose which observation model it will use.
Come on teachers, be patient.
Sure the system isn't finished yet and sure the margin of error on those value-added measurements are 12%-35% and sure you'll be fired if you aren't rated well in this system - but you have to be patient with us.
We're working as hard as we can to find a way to scapegoat you and fire you at will.
With the help of corporate-friendly politicians like Barack Obama and Lamar Alexander, we have the mechanism to do so in the state of Tennessee (and elsewhere - like New York!)
Now just give us a chance to get the system right - and by right, we mean so complex and screwy that we can essentially declare every teacher a "bad teacher" and fire all your asses, close down all the schools and turn everything over to for-profit education companies.
Cheap way to run the government when there is no public education system to pay for.
So be patient, folks - this isn't about making education better, this is about making sure we can use these uncertain times in the economy to destroy the public education system, teachers unions and government employees and turn all public education over to our for-profit cronies.
And education "reform" sure is one terrific way to do just that.