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Tennessee first-grade teachers now can be evaluated beyond test scores

Aurora Public Schools teacher Shawn E. Bailey leads a classroom at Vista Peak Exploratory in 2014.
Aurora Public Schools teacher Shawn E. Bailey leads a classroom at Vista Peak Exploratory in 2014.
Nicholas Garcia

Tennessee first-grade teachers soon will have another option for their evaluations.

The State Board of Education approved an update to its principal and teacher evaluation policy on Friday, finalizing changes made this year by the legislature to give teachers the option of excluding this year’s TNReady test scores and adding the state’s fifth portfolio option.

In the past, first-grade teachers’ evaluations have been partially comprised of test scores from other students in their school. The use of test scores to evaluate non-tested subjects has been a point of contention, inspiring several lawsuits.

With a portfolio model, teachers demonstrate their students’ growth through video, audio and pictures. The portfolio is then reviewed by other teachers.

The first-grade portfolio was piloted in five districts. Ninety-one percent of teachers who participated said they valued the opportunity to show what was going on inside their classrooms rather than be judged by older students’ scores.

The state already has portfolio growth models for Fine Arts, World Languages, Physical Education, and pre-K and kindergarten teachers, with plans to add more.

Although teachers often prefer portfolio evaluations, the Tennessee Department of Education reports that few districts use the options already available, likely because of the time required to assemble and review them.

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