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Teachers push back on evaluation process

BY LUCAS L. JOHNSON II Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - When Tennessee was competing for a half-billion dollars in federal education money, teachers agreed to allow the state to ramp up its use of student test scores for evaluating educators.

But since winning the $500 million Race to the Top competition in 2010, teachers say the state has gone too far in using student test scores to assess their performance.

Teachers say that isn't what they signed up for when the state was competing for the prestigious and lucrative Race to the Top grant. They are now calling for legislation to place a moratorium on the use of so-called TVAAS scores until a special committee can review them. Teachers also want legislation that prohibits the scores from being tied to teacher licensing.

The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, or TVAAS, was adopted by state lawmakers in 1992. It wasn't intended to grade teachers but to help school directors gauge student progress, according to Jim Wrye, chief lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union.

State education officials decided to use the TVAAS data when entering the grant competition, and teachers signed on - with the understanding that it would be part of "multiple measures and not the focus," Wrye said.

Teachers agreed to allow TVAAS to represent at least 35 percent of a teacher's evaluation. But the state has since ramped up its use of TVAAS, pushing administrators to have classroom observation scores line up with standardized test scores, and most recently tried to link teacher licensure to TVAAS as well.

Wrye said value-added data is a statistical estimate based on standardized test scores that do not measure all that is valued in education. For that reason, he said it shouldn't be relied upon because it could result in a tenured teacher receiving a bad evaluation, which could lead to termination.

"It's really ... become the driver of everything in evaluation, and that's where the problem lies," he said.

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