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Letter from Fitzhugh to Haslam: "Slow down teacher evaluations."Posted Thursday, November 3, 2011, at 9:33 AM
On Wednesday, I sent the following letter to Governor Bill Haslam concerning the new teacher evaluation system.
I am writing today to request your review of the new evaluation standards implemented for this academic year. After two days of testimony in the House Education Committee, I believe that the hasty implementation of this system has led to unintended consequences. My fear is that these unforeseen issues are working against larger reform goals and costing our children many quality teachers.
During the two days of testimony, members of the House Education Committee heard from teachers, principals, administrators and various interest groups. The sentiments were near universal. Our teachers are concerned about the time consuming nature of new planning requirements and the uneven application of standards across school districts. Principals are overwhelmed by the number of conferences and evaluations they must complete each year, in addition to their multitude of other duties. Even superintendents have concerns about the new standards, citing a lack of adequate training for evaluators. In short, I believe the problem is real and widespread enough to warrant review.
Like our teachers, I know that we need tough accountability standards in education. I also understand that no system is ever going to be perfect. We will have growing pains, but that is precisely why we need to implement new evaluation standards with caution. If we gave our schools a year long "practice run" with the new system--which was a common request in committee--we would allow teachers, principals and administrators to feel more comfortable with the changes. It would also give the legislature a year to vet the evaluation standards and fix the multitude of problems that have arisen with input from teachers, principals and other stakeholders.
I know that you and Commissioner Huffman share my commitment to the students of Tennessee. Your efforts to improve education in our state are laudable and I hope to be a partner for you in the legislature. On this issue, however, we disagree and I ask you to reconsider your position. Review the testimony from the House Education Committee and you will see the serious nature of issues raised by teachers, principals, superintendents and legislators from across Tennessee. Education is one of the most important issues we deal with as a state and we need to get this right.
Thank your for your time and I look forward to your reply.
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