In SCORE’s 2009 Roadmap to Success, we recommended that Tennessee ensure that an effective teacher was at the front of every classroom. We made this recommendation based on research that shows effective teaching is the number one school-based factor in improving student achievement. One way we recommended that the state achieve this goal was by making a fundamental change in the way it develops and supports teachers.

During its first year of implementation, Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system is already serving as a powerful platform for increasing inspired and effective teaching across the state. Over the last five months, SCORE has listened to educators and other stakeholders to gather feedback and input on the evaluation system. As with any significant implementation process, both successes and challenges have arisen.

We spoke to teachers, principals, policymakers, school board members, and other stakeholders through roundtable discussions, an online questionnaire, an educator work team, and extensive interviews with stakeholders from throughout Tennessee and the nation. It was an honor to listen and learn from all of these unique perspectives about what it takes to support effective teaching in Tennessee.

Teachers, in particular, told powerful stories about how the new system is helping them improve their own teaching practice. “This system allows for collaboration that in the past we haven’t had,” a roundtable teacher participant said. “Before, in my classroom I did things a certain way, and if it didn’t yield the results I wanted, I was kind of stumped. Now teachers are helping each other and willing to share.”

Another participant said, “The new evaluation system is taking the focus off of teaching and onto learning: it’s about what students are doing in the classroom and how much ownership they are taking in the learning process.”

This type of feedback clarified how impactful the system can be. It also reminded me how important it is to continuously improve the evaluation system to ensure that it supports and improves instruction in every school district in Tennessee.

This past Monday, SCORE released Supporting Effective Teaching in Tennessee, a report that outlines recommendations that we believe will continue improving the evaluation system. Linking evaluation results with professional learning, creating better training opportunities, and empowering strong instructional leaders are all key areas for improvement. We look forward to the report that the Department of Education will issue in July outlining its own feedback and recommendations.

Tennessee’s new evaluation system is nuanced and complex—because the art of teaching is nuanced and complex. Continued improvement over time is critical. At SCORE, we stand ready to support key stakeholders in ensuring that the evaluation system fulfills its potential as a powerful tool in improving both teaching and learning in every school in Tennessee. The children of our great state deserve nothing less.