Stories out of Shelbyville and Knoxville over the weekend indicate a growing pattern of frustration on the part of parents and teachers about the amount of testing forced on Tennessee students and the use of those students (and now, student surveys) to evaluate teachers.
Jason Reynolds at the Shelbyville Times-Gazette reports that the currently used TCAP tests are coming under increasing scrutiny. Reynolds reported that Nashville parent and education activist Jennifer Smith, suggests Tennessee students are subject to too much testing and it is having negative consequences:
“Children are being denied valuable classroom instruction, experiencing undue anxiety and stress, and receiving little — if any — recess time so they can prepare to take a test that is ‘not very strong,'” she wrote. Smith said she would like to see Tennessee follow the lead of California, which recently discontinued its version of TCAP so teachers could prepare to implement PARCC.
Reynolds also notes that J.C. Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) says Tennessee students are overloaded with tests. Bowman has also expressed concern with the use of value-added scores to evaluate teachers. His organization has called for a suspension of the use of TVAAS in evaluations until the PARCC test is implemented, which seems to echo Smith’s concern.
Teachers are speaking out as well. A Knox County teacher recently addressed her School Board about the pressures teachers are facing.
And in this story out of Knoxville, parents and teachers both express concern over excessive testing.
One PTSO leader in Knox County noted: 35 days during the year at the elementary level were devoted just to math assessments, “and that’s not including the other four subjects.”
Concern from parents and teachers over testing combined with serious questions about the ability of value-added scores to actually differentiate between teachers seem to be behind the school systems of both Bradley County and Cleveland passing resolutions recently opposing the use of TVAAS data for teacher evaluation and licensure.
The same parent noted she is concerned about the use of student surveys to evaluate teachers. This is practice underway in Knox County, Shelby County, and Metro Nashville. It’s called the TRIPOD survey and uses student answers on a battery of questions to evaluate teacher performance. This year, the surveys count for 5% of a teacher’s overall evaluation score. It’s not clear how the surveys are scored or what a teacher needs to do to earn the top score of 5.
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