Feedback Helps Teachers Hit the Gas

Sara Heyburn

Sara Heyburn, Assistant Commissioner of Teachers and Leaders =

By Sara Heyburn

Pop quiz. Universally dreaded words for students and adults alike. But this is an easy one, or it should be. What do the letters in TEAM stand for? Over the last few years, the ‘TEAM’ acronym has become synonymous with Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system, but rarely do we talk about what the letters represent. I would contend though, that in our third year of statewide implementation, it is worth pausing for a moment to dig into the meaning behind the acronym: Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model. The important word to note here is acceleration. We have seen a lot of acceleration in Tennessee over the past several years. Among other things, this has included key changes to the way we evaluate and provide feedback to teachers. While the change process has sometimes caused heartburn and hasn’t been perfect, I believe we are starting to see the dividends of a shared vision, shared language, and a shared expectation that all teachers deserve and benefit from high-quality, regular feedback on their practice. And, this commitment to feedback is paying off where it matters most – with students.

Today we released, “Teacher Evaluation in Tennessee: A Report on Year 2 Implementation.” The report details the continued learning and improvement of the system itself and the accelerating effect that strong evaluation and development is having across our state. Not only are Tennessee students learning more and faster than ever before, but as Nate Schwartz discussed in an earlier post about teacher perceptions, teachers and leaders report in increasingly high numbers that they see real value in the system. As the report makes clear, we still have more to do to improve the system’s ability to help administrators deliver the best feedback possible, in multiple, actionable ways to every teacher, every year. What is clear, however, is that we are well on our way on this the journey. And now, in our third year, we are better able to see the impact of a system that takes the feedback and improvement process seriously. The road ahead will no doubt be challenging, but I look forward to charting the course together.  Let’s keep trekking, TEAM.

For more information, you can read this year’s complete report, the department’s official press release, or the July 2012 report on the first year of implementation.