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Push to Reduce Test Scores' Weight in Evaluations Announced by Tenn. Governor

In another recent sign that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is prepared to change the education agenda that characterized his first four years in office, the governor announced Dec. 9 that he wants to reduce the weight of student test scores in teacher evaluations in 2016 and 2017, as part of a larger set of "initiatives to support teachers."

The press release from Haslam's office says that instead of counting student-achievement growth for 35 percent in teacher evaluations, as is current practice, the governor wants student growth to count for only 10 percent in 2016, and 20 percent in 2017. In 2018, the weight of student growth would rise back to 35 percent. In addition, Haslam wants to reduce the weight of student achievement in evaluations for teachers in non-tested subjects from the current level of 25 percent to 15 percent.

Explaining the rationale behind his proposals, Haslam, a Republican, said in the press release: "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 push to significantly alter teacher evaluations follows Haslam's announcement in October that he wants a public review of the Common Core State Standards in Tennessee. The review could lead to alterations of the standards, although the governor has also expressed support for the common core. Unless a legislative push against the standards succeeds, it's unclear how much the standards will change in Tennessee after this review.

Last month, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, a champion of the common core and the current system of teacher evaluations, announced he would not stick around for Haslam's second term (the governor was re-elected on Nov. 4).

Haslam's proposed changes to teacher evaluations will have to be approved by state lawmakers. 

Haslam's Dec. 9 announcement regarding evaluations does not affect the 2014-15 school year, when students are slated to take the state's English/language arts and math tests (the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program) that were not designed to assess the common core, as my colleague Lauren Camera pointed out in a story last month. Tennessee lawmakers prohibited the state from administering the assessment it had previously planned to give this school year, the test from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. 

However, Haslam did say that for the 2015 tests, in E/LA and math, the state will do the following:

•        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.

Chalkbeat Tennessee checked in with Tennessee Education Association President Barbara Gray about Haslam's announcement—Gray said she was surprised by Haslam's announcement and said, "He's moving in the right direction." The union has long opposed the use of "value-added" measures based on test scores in evaluations, and has gone to court to stop such evaluations from being used in the Volunteer state. 

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