A Message from Jamie Woodson


I hope this message finds you well. Important conversations during recent weeks have reminded me of comments that were given at a 2010 SCORE Institute event just a few months after Tennessee passed our landmark First to the Top legislation. Sir Michael Barber, founder of the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, thoughtfully advised that bold policy reform is significant. However, policy reform is at best only 10 percent of transforming a state’s education system – the remaining 90 percent is “implementation, implementation, implementation.”

Tennessee has taken significant steps to ensure our students are post-secondary and career ready. But I am reminded every day how much work we have left to do. The difficult work of implementation – new educator evaluations, higher academic standards, and retooling how we deliver public education – is the work before us. Although it is hard and takes time, this work is critical to improving student achievement in our state.

Thank you for all you do to serve Tennessee’s children, and for your commitment to the tough work ahead.





Tennessee Education Update

Teacher Evaluation Recognized in Two National Reports – Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation, which is in its first year of implementation, received recognition from two national organizations focused on public education. An October 2011 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality looks in-depth “at the characteristics of the 17 states and the District of Columbia Public Schools that are giving student achievement a significant, objective, meaningful, and measurable role in how teacher performance is assessed.” Tennessee is noted as being one of a group of Race to the Top winners that is “clearly at the forefront of efforts to develop and implement performance-based teacher evaluations.” A second report by Democrats for Education Reform examines new teacher evaluation systems across the country and “predicts which of those states’ laws are tough enough to withstand the challenges ahead and are most likely to succeed in increasing teacher quality.” Tennessee’s evaluation system ranks second, behind Florida and ahead of Colorado.

Tennessee NAEP Scores Released – This week the Tennessee Department of Education released the state’s 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) SCOREs. Although there was no statistical change in Tennessee’s SCOREs in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math—the four subjects tested this year—a greater number of states have made improvements, pushing Tennessee farther down in national rankings. In a statement after the release, SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson remarked that “our state’s recent work to raise academic standards, identify and support effective teaching, and turn around our lowest performing schools is more important than ever.”

SCORE Update

SCORE Prize Finalists Receive Recognition – Following the awarding of the 2011 SCORE Prize in late September, schools and districts continue to receive recognition for their work to improve student achievement. Prize finalist Jo Byrns High School in Robertson County received a banner last week at a school assembly recognizing the school for its achievement. In addressing the assembled middle school students, SCORE staff member Laura Moore told them they were a great example to schools throughout the state. Click here to view photos from the Jo Byrns visit, and here to view photos from a visit to SCORE Prize winner Mt. Juliet High School.

SCORE Noted for Race to the Top Support – The National Council on Teacher Quality highlighted SCORE’s work in its recent report on teacher evaluations, mentioned above. “Success may be dependent on an effective and proactive communication plan. Teachers are understandably worried about changing evaluation policy, and it is important that they be well-informed and have access to good sources for reliable information. Parents too need to understand the changes that are occurring. Tennessee SCORE, an education reform advocacy group, has played a central role in coordinating communications related to all aspects of that state’s Race to the Top plan.”

National and State Education Headlines

Common Core Found to Rank with Respected Standards
Education Week (October 26, 2011)
The Common-Core standards in English/language arts and mathematics are generally aligned to the leading state standards, international standards, and university standards at the high-school-exit level, but are more rigorous in some content areas, says a report released by the Educational Policy Improvement Center.

Speaking Their Language
TN Report (October 21, 2011)
Byron Booker of Knox Central High School was named Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Booker teaches about 40 students in English as a Second Language classes at the Knoxville school. In the last three years, Booker has established a collaborative model with other teachers at Knox Central, where he goes into core academic classes with some of his English language learners.

Grading the Teachers
Wall Street Journal (October 22, 2011)
By Bill and Melinda Gates: America’s schoolteachers are some of the most brilliant, driven and highly skilled people working today—exactly the kind of people we want shaping young minds. But they are stuck in a system that doesn’t treat them like professionals. In most workplaces, there is an implicit bargain: Employees get the support they need to excel at their jobs, and employers build a system to evaluate their performance. The evaluations yield information that employees use to improve—and that employers use to hold employees accountable for results. Teachers don’t work in anything like this kind of environment, and they want a new bargain.

Senate Education Panel Approves ESEA Overhaul
Education Week (October 20, 2011)
A long-stalled, bipartisan rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act approved by the Senate education committee last week faces steep political hurdles, including opposition from civil rights and business leaders who see it as a step back on student and school accountability and from Republican lawmakers who say it doesn’t pull back enough on the federal role in education.

The Latest from the SCORE Sheet

Sarah TurnerA Little Investment for a Huge Return
By Sarah Turner, First Grade ELL Teacher at Haywood Elementary
(October 19, 2011)
Parents genuinely want the best for their children. My taking the time to understand family strengths and challenges had huge returns in my class. While this takes some investment, by simply equipping parents with the tools they need to support their children’s education, we can enable student achievement that goes beyond the classroom. By thinking more broadly about enabling parents’ support of their child, we can secure a valuable partnership.

Kathleen AirhartThe TEAM Teacher Evaluation: Stay the Course or Change the Model?
By Kathleen Airhart, Director of Schools, Putnam County
(October 25, 2011)
Personally, I like the TEAM model of evaluation. The rubrics provide a solid framework for good teaching that can be employed in most any classroom. Best practice of use of the TEAM model will include the observer serving as a “coach” to encourage teachers in specific ways to improve performance. I have encouraged educators in my system to embrace the framework; incorporate strategies into lesson plans; and be less concerned about the “score.”