Executive Summary

Gera Summerford

Describe your background and current position.

I am currently the President of the Tennessee Education Association. Most of my classroom time has been spent as a math teacher (calculus, trigonometry, and algebra) at the high school level. During that time, for most of 20 years, I was involved with my local union.

What do you think worked well around teacher evaluation in Tennessee?

●      Tennessee invested in resources to provide opportunities for input from many people. For example, the 

We [teachers] as a group are always being accused of being resistant to change. But, when you are dealing with public education, you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of people. For smooth implementation, communication of the change has to occur.
 
Gera Summerford

Hope Street Group facilitated a convening of teachers in Tennessee.  Those kinds of examples, if widespread, would be invaluable.

●      Having a group like yours, one that is neutral, would be helpful throughout the entire process.

●      Having teachers involved throughout the whole process was helpful.

What would you go back in time to change?

I would look hard on what goes into law. I think that Delaware put different things in the law and took more time for implementation. Putting things [such as time lines] into law creates inflexibility and things like time lines and goal setting should be flexible, as you don’t truly know what you will see during implementation until you [begin].

This is all new territory, but the training for local decision making could have been better. A lot of the problems we are seeing can be solved at the local level, but people have to be prepared to do that.

We [teachers] as a group are always being accused of being resistant to change. But, when you are dealing with public education, you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of people. For smooth implementation, communication of the change has to occur. At the local level, we could have better facilitated discussions. At the state level, we could have done a better job of getting engagement and input before the Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee (TEAC) convened.

What are the big questions that remain?

●      The use of the data and collecting applicable data to what teachers actually teach.

●      The retraining of teachers and school leaders.

●      How to continue and improve communication. It’s a huge investment, but there must be ways to communicate and share best practices. One suggestion would be train teachers and evaluators together.

What have you seen work well for teacher engagement?

What works for me is to:

1.       Bring people together for face to face time.

1.       Allow some time for discussion.

2.       Allow people to put their recommendations in writing.

To get the best feedback from everyone, there has to be an opportunity to allow people to put things in writing, as there will always be those who dominate and those who are more reluctant to speak.

What kind of role could the union play in teacher engagement during implementation?

The union could develop the questions and topics for discussion during convenings and encourage people to participate. It’s also beneficial to have neutral groups to facilitate. 

The Federal Government and Teacher Evaluation

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