Three options

Here’s how test scores could count in teacher evaluations for first year of TNReady

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick

Tennessee teachers likely will have the option in their evaluations this year to waive student test scores from the first year of the state’s troubled TNReady test. But even if they choose that option, test scores still will make up to 50 percent of their evaluation scores in one way or another.

After the failed online rollout of the state’s new TNReady test in February, Gov. Bill Haslam responded to calls for flexibility by offering up a sure-to-pass proposal to give teachers three options, including one that would nix TNReady scores from this year’s evaluations.

“Teachers will be able to choose the best of results for themselves,” Haslam told reporters.

His proposal, which requires legislative approval, would be an extension of last year’s Teacher Evaluation Enhancement Act, which temporarily reduces the weight of current test scores from evaluations in the transition to TNReady, the state’s new assessment aligned to the state’s current academic standards.

However, while granting temporary flexibilities in the new TNReady era, the state continues to hold fast to inclusion of student test scores in teacher evaluations — a lynchpin of sweeping education reforms ushered in during the last five years under the state’s Race to the Top plan. The evaluations are used by local districts to make personnel decisions.

To incorporate test scores into teacher evaluations, Tennessee uses TVAAS, a formula that’s supposed to show how much teachers contributed to individual student growth.

TVAAS, which is short for the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, typically comprises data based on three years of testing, but this year teachers will have the options of only using scores from this year’s tests — or from the past two years before that. How is that possible? Although TVAAS, in theory, measures a student’s growth, it really measures how a student does relative to his peers.

The state examines how students who have scored at the same levels on prior assessments actually perform on TNReady in 2015-16. Students are expected to perform about as well on TNReady as their peers with comparable prior achievement. But if they perform better than their peers, no matter how their performance compares to last year’s, they will positively impact their teacher’s score.

Here are the options* for this year’s teacher evaluations.  (For details, move your cursor over the pie charts.)

Option 1: As always, 50 percent of the evaluation would be comprised of “qualitative” data from teacher observations. The other 50 percent is based off of quantitative data. Teachers can choose from a menu of options to count toward the “achievement” part of their score, which counts for 15 percent of their overall evaluation. Options include AP scores, the school’s graduation rate, or school-wide TVAAS.  TVAAS comprises the remaining 35 percent of the evaluation score overall, with 10 percent coming from TNReady scores and 12.5 percent each from the final two years of TCAP.

Option 1, 2016
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Option 2: Only value-added including TNReady would count in the TVAAS portion of the evaluation score, for 35 percent.

Option 2, 2016
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Option 3: The third option would totally discount this year’s TNReady scores.

Option 3, 2016
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*Depending on the district, teachers of some non-tested subjects can use portfolios rather than TVAAS for that portion of their evaluation score.

Teacher votes

Memphis teacher groups want annual pay raises and more say in how they teach their students

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
Keith Williams (left) and Tikeila Rucker lead the teacher associations representing licensed educators in Shelby County Schools.

Memphis teachers will soon have the opportunity to change compensation, work hours, health benefits, and how they teach if they vote to negotiate a new agreement with Shelby County Schools.

The district’s two organizations, which represent teachers and other licensed educators, say their priorities are restoring automatic pay increases and higher pay for educators with advanced degrees, and giving more flexibility to teachers in the classroom.

United Education Association and Memphis-Shelby County Education Association have been talking with district leaders about making these changes, but amending the employee agreement with the district — through a process known as “collaborative conferencing” in Tennessee law — would ensure the changes will take place with a written agreement.

The United Education Association plans to hold a teacher rally to talk about the process from 4:30 to 6 Tuesday evening at the district’s central office. Superintendent Dorsey Hopson is scheduled to be the guest speaker.

Collaborative conferencing replaced union bargaining rights in a 2011 law. The law tossed the requirement that districts and organizations representing employees have to reach an agreement. If there’s an impasse, the school board gets the final word.

The law also narrowed the topics that could be discussed between teacher organizations and the school district. Their agreements cannot address teacher evaluations, district decisions on bonuses and raises based on teacher performance, or requiring districts to base personnel decisions on tenure or seniority.

If educators vote to negotiate, it will be the first negotiation for the Memphis school district since 2015, and the first since the city’s teacher group split into two. Last year, the groups tried to get enough votes for talks, but fell short by about 10 percent. (The current agreement is still in effect.)


Related: Why the Janus Supreme Court case won’t have much impact in Tennessee


Garnering enough support to start talks requires two steps.

First, 15 percent of employees are required by state law to sign a petition requesting a district-wide vote on whether teacher representatives should negotiate a new agreement, also known as a memorandum of understanding. The two teacher organizations, which collectively represent about 4,500 members, have gathered at least 2,600 signatures, well above the number needed.

Next, half of the district’s licensed educators must vote by email to start negotiations. Educators will also be asked in early November to choose which organization will represent them at the negotiating table. The organizations will have a percentage of seats on a committee based on which organization educators voted for.

The resulting agreement would not be sent back for a vote from teachers, but Tikeila Rucker, the president of the United Education Association, said her organization plans to conduct surveys throughout the process “that ensures us that we really have teacher input.”

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson answers questions from Memphis teachers at a town hall hosted by United Education Association of Shelby County on in March.

Hopson has tried for several years to switch teacher pay to a merit system based on evaluation scores that include student test scores. That would mean only teachers with high evaluation scores would be eligible for raises. But Hopson did not want to base those decisions on a state test that has experienced a multitude of problems. So, for the last three years, all educators have received 3 percent raises.

Keith Williams, the executive director of Memphis-Shelby County Education Association, said the district should combine merit pay and annual increases in base pay.

“I think we should do step and merit pay,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of issues to work out for teacher compensation, including advanced degree pay and people who are nationally board certified.”

Hopson also has brought back some pay for advanced degrees. But only teachers with high evaluation scores are eligible.


Related: The salary slide: as other professionals see growth, teachers’ pay stagnates, new report finds


Rucker said she also wants to push for more flexibility in how teachers use the district’s new curriculum, which more closely aligns with Tennessee’s new requirements for what students should learn.

“Teachers are mandated to teach based on district-selected curriculum and it’s kind of like a script,” Rucker said. “That takes away from a lot of the creativity for teachers to reach their students for academic success.”

Hopson did allow some flexibility based on feedback from Rucker’s organization, but said teachers had to earn that autonomy based on their evaluation scores.

dollars and cents

New York City teacher salaries to range from $61,070 to $128,657 in new contract

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
The pay increases included in the new contract are marginal. UFT President Michael Mulgrew (right) and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza (left) announced the new agreement Thursday along with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Starting salaries for a first-year New York City teacher will increase over the next three years to $61,070, up from $56,711 this year, according to a salary schedule released Friday by the United Federation of Teachers.

Unlike the first contract under Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in 2014, the pay increases included in the new contract are marginal. In that contract, starting teacher pay jumped by almost 20 percent — nearly $10,000 — because city teachers had gone without an updated contract for five years.

[Related: More money for New York City teachers in contract deal, but is it a raise? Some are pushing back]

The 2019-2022 contract, announced four months before the current one is due to expire, includes annual raises of 2, 2.5, and 3 percent. Teachers have criticized the increases as insufficient to keep up with rising living costs.

“Furious my beloved @UFT wants me to support a contract that doesn’t even include cost of living increases when I teach in one of most expensive housing markets in USA,” tweeted Samantha Rubin.

Under the contract agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the UFT’s members, the maximum salary for teachers will rise from $119,565 to $128,657. The proposed salary schedule details how much teachers earn based on how many years they’ve been working and how many education credits they’ve accrued.

The union posted the schedule as part of a massive document dump aimed at explaining the new contract. Those documents include an outline of the proposed changes and the agreement signed by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, which also made several policy changes that will affect schools and classrooms.

Friday afternoon, the UFT’s 3,400-member delegate assembly will meet and vote to recommend the proposed contract to all 129,000 members.

Some members have complained that the vote feels rushed. The agreement was announced Thursday afternoon and the memorandum was still being finalized in the hours before the delegate vote.

“It strikes me as sort of Republican Senate power play to just ram something through before anyone has a chance to read the contract,” said Will Ehrenfeld, an American history teacher at P-Tech and a union delegate. “I think it’s really unacceptable to not get details.”

Mulgrew defended the process, saying “everyone is going to have a couple of weeks to read the entire memorandum.”

You can read the full memorandum below.



Christina Veiga and Alex Zimmerman contributed.