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TEA recommends evaluation system changes

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Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Teachers who "meet expectations" in their evaluation would be eligible for tenure under changes the Tennessee Education Association is recommending for the state's new teacher evaluation system.

Association President Gera Summerford said at a news conference on Wednesday that the system is flawed and outlined seven recommendations to help improve it.

"Tennessee's teacher evaluation system and supporting data system are so flawed that they diminish the education program for Tennessee students," she said. "As a result, students suffer as teachers and administrators are distracted from focusing on student learning in order to meet the demands of the evaluation system."

The standards require half of teachers' assessments to come from testing data, and the rest from classroom observations. Some principals have complained that they don't have enough time to perform multiple evaluations of students, while many teachers have said their subjects are not covered by standardized tests.

Teachers can gain tenure only if they score in the top two ratings two consecutive years. A three on the 5-point rating scale is "meets expectations."

To address the complaints, one recommendation is to designate 2011-2012 a practice year for the new system, "so that no educator will be negatively affected by this year's evaluation rating," according to the association.

The group also wants to change the number of teacher evaluations. Principals must make at least four each year. It suggests reducing the number of observations for accomplished teachers.

For example, a teacher with a rating of 3 or better would receive one observation a year and "a full evaluation cycle compromising multiple observations completed every five years," the group said.

Rep. Joey Hensley agrees the new evaluation process is time consuming and needs to be changed.

"Certainly ... good teachers don't need four evaluations," said the Hohenwald Republican. "We need to cut that down."

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said last month that he has commissioned an outside review to help "separate the anecdotes from flaws" in the new system.

Meanwhile, Summerford said teachers are against a proposal by Haslam this legislative session that would allow local Tennessee school districts to determine class sizes, saying the measure would adversely affect students' ability to learn and graduate.

"We certainly oppose any changes in class size," she said Wednesday.

Summerford said regional meetings and online surveys were among the ways the association got feedback from teachers and administrators to develop the recommendations.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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