One of the four priorities in SCORE’s annual report, Priorities For Progress: 2018-19 State Of Education In Tennessee, focuses on Tennessee’s foundations for student success. The innovations and raised expectations from a few years ago have now become the bedrock for Tennessee’s current and future success.

A specific student-focused policy that has helped drive the unprecedented progress in student achievement is the multiple-measure educator evaluation system. Telena Haneline, a first-grade teacher in Loudon County Schools, has taught for 19 years and in several states throughout her career. She explains how she has grown more as an educator in Tennessee than in any other state because of the educator evaluation system and how that has led to vital growth for her students.

You taught in other states before moving to Tennessee. What is unique about teaching and learning in Tennessee?

Tennessee has remarkably higher expectations for student learning compared to each of the other four states and six schools where I’ve had the opportunity to serve prior to teaching in Tennessee. While goal-setting for teachers and students was a focus in other states, the measurement of the goals was not consistent. Tennessee’s multiple-measure teacher evaluation system provides that consistency. Consistency in measurement allows Tennessee teachers to set goals and define gaps in order to meet the needs of our students. When goals aren’t measured, gaps can’t be addressed, and students aren’t able to grow to their fullest potential. I’m so glad my students and my own two daughters have benefited from this measurement-focused approach.

What is one specific way that the educator evaluation system has benefited you and your students?

The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) measures the impact of teacher performance on their students’ academic progress. The specific feedback I’ve received from administrators and coaches about how to improve through the use of TVAAS has brought my teaching to a remarkably higher effectiveness level. It surely has “added value” to my students’ educational experiences and to my effectiveness as a teacher.

As part of Tennessee’s multiple-measure educator evaluation system, I am observed using the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM) rubric. This rubric provides opportunities for specific and measurable feedback from observers to teachers. The guidelines in the TEAM rubric specifically address strategies that work best for students. The guidelines for questioning have been of particular benefit to my students. After modeling questioning strategies, I get a front row seat to witness each of my first graders questioning each other while describing the types of thinking they are using. I often have to remind myself that they are only six or seven years old!

What role does school culture play in making the evaluation process valuable and helpful for teachers?

The collaborative school culture at my school is a space where my colleagues and I feel safe to ask for feedback from each other regarding our teaching. This is due in large part to leaders in my school and county that cultivate a growth mindset among teachers and students. Because we feel safe being honest with each other, we frequently informally observe one another and provide feedback based on the TEAM rubric, which makes us all better. We truly have the mindset that, “a rising tide lifts all ships.” We are all better because we support each other’s growth. In Loudon County, that has certainly led to exemplary outcomes for students.

You have been teaching for 19 years. During that time what have you learned about how to continue to grow and improve as a teacher?

Collaboration, eliciting and providing honest feedback, keeping my expectations high, setting goals, measuring my students’ performance, intentionally taking time to connect with and get to know my students and colleagues, and keeping myself informed on education-related research are all keys to continued growth. It may be cliche to say, “never stop learning,” but it’s so true!

Telena Haneline is a 2018-19 Tennessee Educator Fellow and teaches first grade in Loudon County Schools.