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New Evaluation System Faces Backlash

Tennessee's newly implemented teacher-evaluation program is getting a less than enthusiastic reception from many educators, with some even abandoning the classroom because of it, according to a story in The Tennessean.

The new evaluation program, developed in connection with the federal Race to the Top grant competition, grades teachers on both student test scores and multiple classroom observations. As of now, the observations seem to be the primary sticking point, with both teachers and principals complaining that they are cumbersome and unfair. The article notes that, among other things, the evaluators are required to use a three-page checklist to review teachers' lessons plans.

It also reports that the school board members of one Tenn. district have written a letter to state officials cautioning that teachers have become so bogged down in trying to meet the various evaluation rubrics that they are unable to engage with students.

With an eye toward test scores, meanwhile, some teachers are "signaling" that they want to keep struggling students off their class rosters, according to the article.

While acknowledging that the evaluation system may need revisions, however, state leaders are standing by it as a means of improving instruction.

"Ultimately, it's going to be a way for good teachers to be recognized, reward them, and pay them well for staying in the classroom," said Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, speaker of the Tenn. House of Representatives.

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