Tennessee exemplifies the improved student performance and higher levels of teacher professionalism states can attain through federal Race to the Top education reforms, wrote U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a column for the Huffington Post.
The piece, “The Tennessee Story,” highlights the Tennessee Department of Education’s recent report on its new teacher evaluation system as a national example.
“As Tennessee has shown, our children, our teachers, and our country will be better off when school leaders and educators finally undertake the challenging task of creating a meaningful and useful system for supporting and evaluating our nation's teachers,” said Duncan, citing Tennessee’s largest-ever gains on student achievement tests that accompanied its first year of comprehensive teacher evaluations.
Duncan applauds Tennessee’s use of student growth as major component of teacher evaluations and its commitment to soliciting feedback from thousands of teachers to improve the system.
“Student growth can and should be one of a number of measures in evaluating the performance of teachers — and it's important not to ignore a teacher's impact on student learning just because it is difficult to measure,” he said. “Better evaluation systems improve classroom instruction.”
Kevin Huffman, Tennessee’s commissioner of education, said he appreciated the support of the national education department.
“We know we’ve got a ways to go in Tennessee, but we’re excited about the changes we’re seeing,” he said. “It is humbling to be held up as a national example—states all have a lot to learn from each other.”
Under Duncan’s leadership at the U.S. Department of Education, Tennessee became one of the first two states to win Race to the Top funding in 2009 and went on to receive a waiver from certain parts of No Child Left Behind in 2012.
Tennessee implemented one of the country’s first comprehensive, student outcomes-based teacher evaluation systems in the 2011-12 school year, part of its Race to the Top plans to improve teaching and learning.
Earlier this month, the department submitted a thorough review of its first year, recognizing the new system’s success in cultivating higher-quality classroom instruction and recommending further improvements for next year.