Teachers object to proposed license process

Nathan Baker • Aug 15, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Local teachers’ organization leaders echoed objections voiced Wednesday in Nashville by state union officials against a measure that would connect the granting and renewal of teaching licenses to standardized testing data.

Joe Crabtree, president of the Johnson City Education Association, a local chapter of the Tennessee Education Association, said using Tennessee Value-Added System scores as a prerequisite before granting teachers’ licenses will result in the loss of hundreds of competent teachers and less collaboration between educators.

“Tying licensure to TVAAS data seems ludicrous,” said Crabtree, an Indian Trail Intermediate School teacher. “Those scores are based on a student’s performance on one test on one day of the year, and is not always an accurate determination of growth for a variety of reasons.”

At a news conference in the state’s capital, TEA leaders unveiled a study conducted by Vanderbilt University Professor Dale Ballou that they said showed the fallibility of TVAAS data when used to measure teacher performance.

In the case of Weakley County teacher Cynthia Watson, Ballou said growth data from one school year changed from the highest possible score one year to the lowest score the next year because of state recalculation.

“Cynthia’s story is not an anomaly,” TEA President Gera Summerford said in a statement. “Unfortunately, her situation is unique only in the fact that she is willing to share her results publicly. Cynthia’s data shows us that TVAAS data is not the ‘strong indicator of future performance’ that the state claims. Under this proposal, we risk losing the qualified, committed teachers our students need.”

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is expected to present a plan Friday to the state Board of Education asking that the approval and renewal of teachers’ licenses require overall TVAAS scores of two or better for two years in a three-year period and growth scores of two or better for two years in that same period.

If a teacher fails to meet the requirements, their license will be extended for an additional year to give a final opportunity to improve the scores.

Currently, teachers’ licenses are renewed every 10 years contingent on the completion of required coursework and individual experience, not job performance.

“It really sets up a large-scale failure,” Crabtree said. “Schools are already hard to staff as it is now. It plays a dangerous game with student education.”

Information provided by the TDOE forecasts that 95 percent of teachers’ licenses will be renewed automatically under the plan, estimating that between 100 and 200 licenses will be denied each year.

“Tennessee has been using the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System for around 20 years, and the state is considered the national leader in the use of value-added data,” Education Department spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier said in an email. “The vast majority of Tennessee teachers perform at a high level and would not be impacted by the proposed changes. However, habitually low-performing teachers who receive the lowest possible score of 1 for three out of four years would not have their licenses renewed.”

She added that an appeals process would allow teachers to challenge a lost license because of incorrect data.

Tennessee Board of Education Director Gary Nixon said the board has already conducted a series of workshops on the proposal and will likely approve it Friday.

“I think there will be some questions, but I think they’re pretty supportive of using the TVAAS data,” he said.

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