Tennessee’s evaluation system is a model for the nation

A new report out today reinforces what many other researchers have found to be true: Tennessee’s teachers are improving more (and more rapidly) each year as a result of our teacher evaluation model and support.

Today, Tennessee is called out as a model for the country in a report by the National Council of Teacher Quality, following a similar report last week from FutureEd at Georgetown and a report earlier this year from the Tennessee Education Research Alliance. These independent analyses provide several key takeaways about our approach to teacher evaluation, or TEAM: the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model.

  • Our evaluation model has been a key driver to our success. Tennessee teacher improvement appears to be greater in more recent years – since we transitioned to our TEAM model in 2011-12. Improvement occurred as we adopted common language and a common understanding of expectations with ongoing support for teachers.
  • Our teachers keep getting better. Unlike in other states, in Tennessee, teachers continue to develop their effectiveness throughout their careers – well after their first few years in the profession.
  • Our best teachers are staying. The TEAM model recognizes strong teachers and keeps them in the classroom, and the teachers who have chosen to leave the profession have tended to be those who were lower rated.
  • Our teachers believe evaluation is helping them to improve. The vast majority – 72% – of Tennessee teachers say our teacher evaluation model is improving their teaching, which is up from 37% just a few years ago. And by every measure, student performance under higher expectations is better now than it ever has been.

Tennessee has had a unique, targeted, and sustained approach to teacher evaluation that is different than any other state. We have focused specifically on student growth to say what happens in the classroom matters, and we have included multiple measures that we know contribute to student success. Tennessee’s evaluation model, with its continuous improvement design and focus on growth, is pushing all of us, at every level in education, to become the best teachers and leaders we can be and to make sure our educational system maximizes student success. Continuing this approach moving forward is the single most important policy we can have in place to ensure that we remain and accelerate as one of the fastest improving states in the nation.

In any measure you look at – results from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), ACT scores, graduation rate, Advanced Placement scores, industry credentialing, or students’ access to opportunities to prepare for college and careers – our students are doing better and have more opportunities now than they did in 2011-12. We believe that these outcomes would not have happened without the intentional focus on student progress that was underscored by the high academic expectations we set for every single student in Tennessee. And, because of our statewide approach to educator evaluation and support, we have been able to better reinforce the implementation of TEAM and align state resources and priorities around accelerating teachers’ continued professional growth. This statewide approach is pushing all of us, at every level in education, to become the best teachers and leaders we can be and to make sure our educational system maximizes student success.

As these reports note, Tennessee has led one of the most comprehensive education reform efforts in the country over the past 10 years, overhauling teacher evaluation and professional development and strengthening teacher and school leadership, while simultaneously raising expectations for students. During this same period, our state has seen steady improvement in teachers’ effectiveness and students’ achievement. This is a remarkable testament to the importance of good, bi-partisan state education policy led by Governor Bill Haslam with support from the Tennessee General Assembly. This sustained focus on evaluating and supporting teachers continues to improve the profession and more importantly, the futures of our students.

As I noted in my comments at the LEAD 2018 conference last week, our state’s laser focus on what happens in the classroom – the results of teaching and learning between each student and teacher – and the expectations and supports set by leaders at all levels continues to be why Tennessee is moving from good to better to best. Today’s report highlighting teacher evaluation simply put another exclamation on that point and remind us that we continue to be on the right track. Now, let’s keep going.