2019 Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policy
The state should ensure that teachers receive feedback about their performance and should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations.
Evaluation feedback: Tennessee requires that all evaluators provide written feedback within one week of each observation and schedule an in-person debrief. During these conferences, the teacher's strengths and weaknesses are discussed.
Professional Development: Tennessee requires evaluations to used "to inform ... individual and group professional development plans."
Improvement Plans: Tennessee state policy does not specify that teachers with less-than-effective ratings are placed on improvement plans.
Evaluation Rating Categories: Tennessee requires multiple rating categories: significantly below expectations, below expectations, at expectations, above expectations, and significantly above expectations.
Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policy 5.201
Ensure that teachers receiving less-than-effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan.
Tennessee should adopt a policy requiring that teachers who receive even one less-than-effective evaluation rating are placed on structured improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should identify noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies, and describe how and when progress will be measured.
Tennessee recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
7D: Linking Evaluation to Professional Growth
Professional development should be connected to needs identified through teacher evaluations. The goal of teacher evaluation systems should be not just to identify highly effective teachers and those who underperform but to help all teachers improve. Even highly effective teachers may have areas where they can continue to grow and develop their knowledge and skills. Rigorous evaluations should provide actionable feedback on teachers' strengths and weaknesses that can form the basis of professional development activities. Too often professional development is random rather than targeted to the identified needs of individual teachers. Failure to make the connection between evaluations and professional development squanders the likelihood that professional development will be meaningful.
Many states are only explicit about tying professional development plans to evaluation results if the evaluation results are bad. Good evaluations with meaningful feedback should be useful to all teachers, and if done right should help design professional development plans for all teachers—not just those who receive poor ratings.
To further increase the utility and validity of evaluation systems, states should require that evaluation instruments differentiate among various levels of teacher performance rather than only giving binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory ratings. Binary rating systems often offer little meaning because virtually all teachers receive satisfactory ratings. More rating categories allow for more nuanced distinctions between levels of teacher performance.