Unsatisfactory Evaluations: Tennessee

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should articulate consequences for teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations, including specifying that teachers with multiple unsatisfactory evaluations should be eligible for dismissal.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Unsatisfactory Evaluations: Tennessee results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/TN-Unsatisfactory-Evaluations-10

Analysis of Tennessee's policies

New legislation in Tennessee specifies that tenured teachers who receive two consecutive years of "below expectations" or "significantly below expectations" performance ratings are returned to probationary status. Once on probationary status, if the teacher receives two consecutive evaluations of "above expecations" or "significantly above expectations," then he or she is again eligible for tenure. If tenure is not granted, then the teacher "cannot be continued in employment."

Recommendations for Tennessee

Require that all teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations be placed on improvement plans.
Tennessee should adopt a policy requiring that teachers who receive even one unsatisfactory evaluation be placed on structured improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should list noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies and describe how and when progress will be measured.

Make clear to districts that dismissal is a consequence of unsatisfactory evaluations.
Tennessee's new policy is strong, but the state should consider adding clarifying language so that districts fully understand that reversion to probationary status makes a teacher eligible for dismissal.

State response to our analysis

Tennessee was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

How we graded

Negative evaluations should have meaningful consequences.

Teacher evaluations are too often treated as mere formalities rather than as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers to improve and holding weak teachers accountable for poor performance. State policy should reflect the importance of evaluations so that teachers and principals alike take their consequences seriously. Accordingly, states should articulate the consequences of negative evaluations. First, teachers that receive a negative evaluation should be placed on improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should list noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies and describe how progress will be measured. While teachers that receive negative evaluations should receive support and additional training, opportunities to improve should not be unlimited. States should articulate policies wherein two negative evaluations within five years are sufficient justification for dismissal.

Employment status should not determine the consequences of a negative evaluation.

Differentiating consequences of a negative evaluation based on whether a teacher has probationary or nonprobationary status puts the interests of adults before those of students. Ideally, weaknesses and deficiencies would be identified and corrected during the probationary period; if the deficiencies were found to be insurmountable, the teacher would not be awarded permanent status. However, in the absence of meaningful tenure processes based on teacher effectiveness, limiting significant consequences to the probationary period is insufficient. Any teacher who receives a negative evaluation, regardless of employment status, should be placed on an improvement plan, and any teacher who receives multiple negative evaluations, regardless of employment status, should be eligible for dismissal.

Research rationale

To review the process and types of personnel evaluations observed in other job sectors, including the problems inherent to some evaluation systems see, for example, Gliddon, David (October 2004). Effective Performance Management Systems, Current Criticisms and New Ideas for Employee Evaluation in Performance Improvement 43(9), 27-36.