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Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam Outlines Initiatives To Support Teachers

Proposals address testing, evaluations, local control and teacher input

State of TennesseeNashville, TN – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced several key initiatives to support Tennessee teachers in response to direct feedback from educators across the state.

The proposals reflect input that the governor received during statewide meetings with more than 150 educators and that came out of an education summit he co-hosted with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell in September.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

The initiatives fall into four main categories:

  • More information and feedback on state assessments to help teachers improve student achievement;
  • Full alignment of state academic standards and assessments;
  • Adjustments to teacher evaluations to encourage local decision-making and address state assessment transition;
  • And improved teacher communication and collaboration.

“We’ve asked more from our teachers and students over the past four years than ever before, and they are responding by making historic gains in academic achievement,” Haslam said. “Educators are vital to continued progress in Tennessee, and we want to make sure we’re supporting them in meaningful ways and giving them the tools they need to lead their classrooms, schools and districts.”

More information and feedback on state assessments

One of the issues the governor has heard about repeatedly from educators is a need for more information related to the annual state assessment.  Additional information and feedback on state assessments will include a release of test questions from the 2014 state assessments in English language arts (ELA), math and science, as well as identification of questions that students most frequently answered correctly or incorrectly.

For the new 2015 state assessments in ELA and math, the state will:

  • Release practice questions prior to the test administration;
  • Involve more than 100 teachers in the review and selection of test questions;
  • And provide training for all teachers on the design of the assessment.

In addition, the Department of Education will provide annual school and district reports that highlight areas of the greatest growth and greatest challenges.

Alignment of standards and assessment

One of the most common frustrations the governor heard from educators was that the questions being asked on annual assessments of student achievement do not match the standards they are currently teaching in the classroom.

To address concerns about the misalignment between the expectations of the state’s academic standards in ELA and math and how students are actually tested, Tennessee will administer new assessments in the 2015-16 school year that are based on Tennessee’s rigorous standards for student learning.

The new tests, called Tennessee Ready (TNReady), will enhance the state’s assessments by including writing at all grade levels as well as math questions that must be solved without a calculator. Tennessee educators will play a significant role in developing and reviewing test questions for the new assessments. The administration of these assessments follows legislation adopted by the General Assembly earlier this year requiring the state to conduct a procurement process for a new state test.

Adjustments to teacher evaluation

Haslam also announced that he plans to propose legislation in January to adjust and improve the state’s teacher evaluation laws and policies.  Educators have expressed concerns that state requirements will force school districts to make decisions on hiring, placement and compensation based strictly on student performance on state assessments.

The governor’s proposal would:

  • Adjust the weighting of student growth data in a teacher’s evaluation so that the new state assessments in ELA and math will count 10 percent of the overall evaluation in the first year of administration (2016), 20 percent in year two (2017) and 35 percent in year three (2018). Currently 35 percent of an educator’s evaluation is comprised of student achievement data based on student growth;
  • Lower the weight of student achievement growth for teachers in non-tested grades and subjects from 25 percent to 15 percent;
  • And make explicit local school district discretion in both the qualitative teacher evaluation model that is used for the observation portion of the evaluation as well as the specific weight student achievement growth in evaluations will play in personnel decisions made by the district.

Improved teacher communication and collaboration

In the area of improved teacher communication and collaboration, Haslam will create a Governor’s Teacher Cabinet, which will consist of teachers nominated by local school districts from across the state. The teacher cabinet will meet quarterly with the governor and the education commissioner to share real-time information from the classroom, advise on policy considerations and provide a direct line of communication to their schools and communities.

The governor unveiled these proposals at the annual conference of Learning Forward, an association devoted to advancing professional learning for student success.

The announcement of these initiatives follows an academic standards review process that the governor presented last month and resulted from ongoing discussions with educators across the state and the education summit.


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