Senator Yager Reports

(NASHVILLE, TN) — It was a busy week on Capitol Hill as lawmakers prepared and finalized their legislation in anticipation of the General Assembly’s January 26 bill deadline. The Senate’s eight standing committees are up and running.   One such committee was the Education Committee where the teacher evaluation system was debated.

The Senate Education Committee heard testimony regarding legislation that would give the State Board of Education the option to allow principals and teachers producing superior student growth to use those scores to comprise 50 percent or more of their evaluations.  Senate Bill 2165  would change the present system where students’ value added growth is 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation score, with another 15 percent tied to some other measure agreed upon by the teacher and his/her supervisor to evaluate student achievement.  A vote on the bill was deferred as discussion on the plan continues.    I have signed on as a co-sponsor to this bill with Sen. Mike Faulk in response to the many concerns expressed by teachers throughout the district.   If there are legitimate additional tools to demonstrate teaching effectiveness, then we should consider them. 

Reforming the state’s teacher evaluation process was an important part of Tennessee’s receiving $500 million in federal Race to the Top funds, which was based on four pillars:  enhancing standards and assessments, improving the collection and use of data, increasing teacher effectiveness, and turning around struggling schools.  The changes to the evaluation system were made during the administration of former Governor Phil Bredesen and approved by the Legislature in January 2010.  The subsequent evaluation process was designed by teachers and other education practitioners, who were integral in designing the evaluative tools.   However, unintended consequences have occurred during the implementation of the new law.  Many teachers and principals argue that the new rules are excessively burdensome and take time from teaching.

House Joint Resolution 523 has also been proposed urging the department to “follow through and fulfill its publicly stated plan to provide multiple opportunities for feedback and future revision” of the evaluations.  I am a co sponsor with Sen Tracy on this resolution.   As a result of the resolution, Governor Haslam announced there will be both an external and internal review of the new teacher evaluation system.  He has charged the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) with conducting an independent, third-party evaluation and has asked the state Department of Education to formalize a review process, which the department has already begun.  The Department of Education anticipates making modifications to the evaluation system after the reviews are complete.  

I am pleased that both the Commissioner and Governor are listening to the concerns of my constituents. Expect discussions on the new evaluation system to continue in the Education Committee during the 2012 legislative session. 

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