A Tennessean editorial takes a look at SCORE’s teacher evaluation feedback report and how education leaders can use the recommendations to improve Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system.

This editorial originally appeared in the 6/13/12 Tennessean.

SCORE puts ball in educators’ court

Kudos to Gov. Bill Haslam for getting the State Collaboration on Reforming Education (SCORE) to make a first pass at Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system; and we applaud the team for not making simplistic suggestions, as it will take significant iterative effort to make this complex initiative work.

It is easy to criticize the report, issued Monday, as some have done, for not telling us exactly how to fix the report card system for Tennessee’s teachers, but that was not their charge. The governor asked the nonprofit organization to take a look at the first year of implementation, talk with teachers, principals and administrators and let us know what works, what doesn’t and suggest ways to improve the process.

Then the state Department of Education and the various school districts need to own their process for making this important piece of student achievement improvement work. It would be too easy to blame an outside group instead of taking responsibility for making a measurable difference.

SCORE got feedback from 932 principals, 831 other evaluators and 15,400 teachers (about 23 percent of teachers statewide). From this feedback, SCORE had six suggestions for the political leaders and educators.

The suggestions may sound simple, but each recommendation contains solid advice for educators and policy makers to implement. For example, recommendation one, make sure evaluators and teachers are trained, includes a suggestion to examine the Memphis TEM model as a way to ensure reliability of evaluators.

Each recommendation includes multiple points to be considered, including a reworking of the report card formula for teachers whose subjects do not have individual testing data for comparison, which has been a major sticking point for teachers who are concerned about being branded by the poor performance of other teachers.

It is refreshing to see an approach by our leaders that focuses on achieving the best solution for teachers, students and our schools reflecting an understanding that the best solution will require consistent critique and review. Implement, evaluate, improve, implement makes sense to us.

We all look forward to reading about the changes the department implements.