Education Policy: Not at all like creating art, or is it?

During the 2016-17 session, the Tennessee legislature is working through 150 separate bills concerning changes to education. To make sense of where they are in the process, it might help to envision the creation of 150 separate paintings for an exhibition. Four of the paintings are already completed, signed by the governor, and are hanging on the wall, six of them have been approved by the house and senate and are awaiting signature, about 70 of them did not pass approval, and about 60 of them are still under revision. One of the bills currently under revision will impact art educators. Let’s give it a working title of “teacher accountability”. Teacher accountability is the reason we have observations, growth measures, and achievement scores, and the state is looking to make changes to what teacher accountability looks like.


Under current law, (Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-1-302) the State Board of Education is assigned the responsibility of creating policy to support teacher evaluation. Therefore, teacher accountability is governed first by law and then by policy. There is a current proposal to amend the law so that it reads: (viii) By the 2018-2019 school year, in order to provide individual growth scores to teachers in non-tested grades and subjects, LEAs shall use at least one (1) appropriate alternative growth model that has been approved by the state board of education. (ix) The department of education shall work to develop valid and reliable alternative student growth models for the grade levels and subjects that do not have models as of the effective date of this act. SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it. This has already passed in the House and is waiting to be heard in the Senate.


This is one place where teacher voice is important. The Tennessee Department of Education is also invested in teacher accountability and has convened an Educator Effectiveness Advisory Committee. This committee was tasked with examining current evaluation policies and practices and making improvements within the guidelines of law and policy.  Thanks to everyone who responded to the Educator Effectiveness Survey, the TDOE has heard critiques from art educators about what we would like to see the teacher accountability “painting” look like. Based on the responses to the survey, teachers requested refining evaluation practices in three main areas: teacher ownership of the process, accurate feedback (portfolio and observations), and allowing differentiated evaluation criteria. The results from the survey were sent Tuesday to the TDOE already responded that they appreciated the feedback very much and would use it to inform their plans for the TEAM evaluator training this summer. 


While it is not certain what changes will be made, changes are coming. Let’s continue the conversation about how to design a teacher accountability model that empowers us to be more effective educators. The “teacher accountability painting” will likely be turned into signed and numbered prints that will hang in all of our classrooms. Let’s do everything we can to make sure it inspires us.