Hamilton County school administrators question "ineffective teac - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

SCHOOL PATROL

Hamilton County school administrators question "ineffective teachers" report

Posted: Updated:
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

Hamilton County parents were disappointed to learn that a recent state report branded almost 30 percent of the school district’s teachers as ineffective.

The report said Hamilton County teachers’ performance lagged behind that of other large school districts in Tennessee. 

Orchard Knob Elementary School principal LaFrederick Thirkill says the report needs to consider other factors.

Thirkill said, "For instance, you have a high mobility or transfer rate among urban schools. We get students who have been taught at other schools, maybe from out of state, and yet we are graded  on that particular student."

Thirkill and other Hamilton County administrators admit the district has trouble spots, but the reality is nowhere near the dark picture painted by a recent state report.  According to the Tennessee Department of Education, Hamilton County has the highest percentage of low-performing teachers in the state, and most are assigned to schools most in need of effective teachers. 

Chief Academic Officer Jill Levine said the report is outdated, and recent ACT scores are up by two-tenths of a point (18.9 to 19.1), the district’s highest score in five years.  She says problem areas are already being addressed.

Levine said, "It’s a new day in Hamilton County, we are better at supporting and preparing teachers and principals, and in the next couple of years, you’ll see huge improvements in those ratings."

State Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen says time is of the essence.  She is alarmed by the lack of progress in low-performing schools, and blames the county for not doing enough to address the problem.

She told Eyewitness News, “We have been providing reports to districts on the distribution of their teachers based on educator effectiveness data. These reports are intended to provide districts with a different way of looking at their schools to help them identify where their best teachers are teaching — and where those teachers are in relation to the students who need them the most. We do this because the single biggest in-school factor on a student's education is the quality of their teacher. We know the report lags somewhat, but we still think it is relevant to the overall conversation—and districts can access this data at any time prior to our reports by logging into the secure TVAAS site whenever they would like and pulling their own data to examine trends and to plan for the current and future needs of teachers, leaders, and schools. While data is delayed this year because of the challenges we had with TNReady, it will be available much earlier in future years."

Principal Thirkill, in his sixth year at Orchard Knob, says he’s passionate about his school, and is quick to defend his teachers.  He says the state’s criteria is flawed.

If a fifth grader performs poorly, new first and second grade teachers can be considered ineffective.

He said, "A teacher may have still been in college when those kids were tested, so this is deceiving to the public. They see these numbers, and they attribute it sometimes to teachers' performance levels. Many teachers are being unfairly branded."

Levine points out that many of the state’s mandates for improvement are already in the works.  She knows Hamilton County has some ineffective teachers, even though she won’t agree with the state that 3 out of 10 of them are.

She says a plan is already in place. "You don't improve a school system by firing people," she said. "You improve a school system by supporting and engaging people, finding pockets of excellence, and expanding them.  Teachers want good leadership, and that's what we're building to move this district forward."

Meetings are scheduled soon between Hamilton County School officials and Education Commissioner McQueen. Dr. McQueen told us the school district has been asked to submit a plan that will ensure teacher improvement, particularly for the district’s priority schools, and says there is tremendous urgency in this issue.

McQueen said, "There is tremendous urgency on this issue. Data and research shows increasing educator effectiveness impacts a child's chances for success, and that is the goal for every single one of our schools. We want districts to lean in where we know strategies work, and increasing access to highly effective educators is one strategy we want to encourage districts like Hamilton County to adopt. The department wants to ensure that all students have access to effective teachers and that high poverty/high minority schools are not being served at disproportionate rates by ineffective teachers. We want to ensure that district plans and budgets address teaching gaps and disparities for high poverty/high minority schools. Each year a child spends in a classroom with an ineffective teacher is time they cannot get back, and we cannot afford that for any of our students."

Meetings are scheduled soon between Hamilton County School officials and Education Commissioner McQueen. Dr. McQueen told us the school district has been asked to submit a plan that will ensure teacher improvement, particularly for the district’s priority schools, and says there is tremendous urgency in this issue.

School Patrol

David Carroll covers education news and issues at schools across the Tennessee Valley.

More>>

Powered by Frankly