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States Flesh Out Teacher Evaluation Frameworks

As teacher-evaluation policies continue to emerge, several states are adding flesh to the outlines made in state law or in their winning Race to the Top bids.

Tennessee's Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee has released its blueprint for the state. You may recall that, according to a state law passed last year, 50% of the evaluation must be based on student academic achievement (35% on growth in test scores and 15% on alternate measures, such as graduation rates). The state eventually won a $500 million grant in the federal competition.

For teachers in non-tested grades and subjects, the state will for now use schoolwide value-added growth rather than individual teacher value-added measures.

As much as teachers' unions have concerns about value-added for individual teacher evaluations, they're even less sanguine about using schoolwide growth measures. That's partly because individual teachers' ratings will be based on the achievement of students with whom the teacher may have no contact.

UPDATED, 4/20/11, 2:25 pm: State Commissioner Kevin Huffman reminds me the schoolwide component isn't permanent; teams of teachers are working to develop other measures, some of which could be ready this fall. The law governing teacher evaluations requires the new system to start then, which explains why schoolwide value-added will serve as a stopgap measure. Also, some teachers he's spoken with in the state say the schoolwide measures will improve collaboration and the teaching of core subjects across the curriculum. So, there are a variety of opinions on the matter.

Contrast Tennessee's approach with that of Rhode Island and select New York districts, which are developing alternative measures for non-value-added grades and subjects.

In other news, Tennessee approved the Teacher Advancement Program's rubric for the four required principal observations that make up the other part of each teacher's evaluation. And Gov. Bill Haslam approved a bill that would tie the still-emerging evaluations to the state's tenure-granting process.

Colorado's Council for Educator Effectiveness, meanwhile, just released nearly 200 pages of recommendations on teacher evaluation. A bill approved by the legislature last year, S. 191, requires performance-based teacher evaluations for all teachers, which will ultimately be linked to tenure-granting, layoff, and dismissal decisions.

The report lays out a specific evaluation framework for the state, but there will be flexibility for districts to weight some of the components according to local needs, as the Denver Post reports.

Two things in the Colorado report warrant a particular mention. First, the panel report underscores that the system should help support the development of better teachers, not just "sort" them into categories. Second, it outlines the challenges that different kinds of teachers and schools—i.e., rural, urban, high school, elementary school—might face in putting the system into practice.

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