Representatives from the Tennessee Education Association spoke with local teachers in the county and city during a presentation at Cleveland High School Tuesday evening.
TEA board president Gera Summerford first addressed the hotly contested Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.
“We have had the Tennessee value-added data for many, many years,” Summerford said. “We have had that part of the teacher evaluations since the 2010 school year, and most recently, the Tennessee School Board passed a policy which based the teacher license renewal on value-added scores and/or evaluation scores.”
TVAAS reportedly measures a student’s academic growth over the course of a school year. The increased emphasis on the scores prompted the TEA to further research TVAAS data. A subsequent resolution and lobbying quickly commenced.
Issues pointed out by TEA included:
- The majority of teachers do not have individual value-added scores.
- TVAAS does not consider the socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds of the students.
- Inconsistencies or anomalies within the TVAAS data are difficult to address.
According to TEA, the continued practice of measuring student, teacher and school success to test scores and data is wrong.
Summerford said it is important to understand the difference between licensure and employment. She argued an educator who has been effective in teaching algebra for 20 years should not lose licensure when a switch to geometry leads to low test scores. The school is within its right to fire the employee for a more effective geometry teacher; however, she argued low test scores in geometry do not change the impact the teacher could have in algebra at another school.
A video of Weakley County teacher Cynthia Watson discussing her test scores was shared with the teachers, school board members and administration.
Watson revealed how her test scores have fluctuated over the years due to “recalculations” by the state. The numbers included: TVAAS level 5 (highest), 2008; TVAAS level 1 (lowest), 2009; TVAAS level 4, 2010; TVAAS level 5, 2011; and TVAAS level 1, 2012.
Summerford pointed to the data’s standard error as a reason for the fluctuating scores some “highly qualified” teachers receive.
“You are probably familiar with polling results, where they might say 70 percent of people in Cleveland High School think Cleveland High is the best,” Summerford said. “So if you saw that report, and they said there is a margin of error of 4 percent, then you know somewhere between 66 percent and 74 percent is what we can be certain of. So when we talk about any type of statistical data, there is some type of standard error.”
She said a strategic data project from Harvard revealed the actual TVAAS level has a gray area similar to the margin of error. A teacher might score a three according to the TVAAS formula, but the standard error could mean the score is actually higher or lower than stated.
TEA assistant executive director for advocacy Duran Williams urged educators to make their voice heard.
He said there has been too much talk of Tennessee’s bottom 5 percent, and not enough recognition of what the students, teachers and schools are doing right.
He presented three ideas to those present: teach the students, not the test; educators are in the business of teaching students how to use information; and licenses must not be based on TVAAS and evaluation.
According to Williams, TEA hopes to:
- Restore the state salary schedule;
- Address the spiraling cost of insurance;
- Reduce out-of-pocket teaching costs; and
- Become a part of the fastest improving salaries in the nation.
Additional subjects discussed included Common Cores State Standards, charter schools and vouchers.
Educators, and other interested parties, were encouraged to get involved and make their voice heard.
Suggestions included: postcards to legislators; attending a TEA rally day; attending school board meetings; writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper; and collecting and sharing personal TVAAS data for the “I am Cynthia Watson” campaign.
More information can be found at teateachers.org.