Executive Summary

Sara Heyburn

Please describe a bit about your background and your current position.

I began my work in education as a high school English teacher in Nashville, TN and later in Louisville, KY. During those years I became interested in policies and structures affecting public education. In May 2010 I completed a three-year Ed.D. policy program at Vanderbilt where I looked at issues of leadership, policy and design. During that time I also worked with Matt Springer at the National Center on Performance Incentives where we conducted research and  study of performance pay programs in different areas across the country. About the time I graduated from Vanderbilt, Tennessee received the Race to the Top grant and there was a need in the Tennessee Governor’s office for several additional policy people around  Race to the Top initiatives.  I was hired in July 2010 as the K-12 Policy Advisor and charged principally with work related to policy development for the new teacher and principal evaluation system. for I served in this capacity in the Governor’s office through January 2011 and have since continued this work in a similar role at the Department of Education through the Commissioner’s office on Race to the Top.

What worked well related to your efforts related to teacher engagement in non-tested grades and subjects reform?

I think we were bold as a state in laying out expedient timelines and goals for the system. This required taking steps to fix the broken system through real educator and stakeholder involvement, especially in the non-tested areas. To this end, we brought together educators and experts to create make recommendations for valid, reliable and appropriate growth measures in those areas. We also saw that we needed communication support to shore up capacity where we lacking; this was an area where we looked to Hope Street Group.

What did not work well?

A lot of our challenges were around communication with educators and stakeholders. It is difficult to communicate regarding things and policies in development.  Nonetheless, we could have had more regular communications through a host of channels including virtual and in-person efforts.

I think we are doing better now with respect to our communication efforts. In some ways, the early stage of implementation is the most important time. One of our goals was to build a nimble system and because we have, we have ways to collect input and share information even in the early phases of implementation.

What major milestones have you reached?

1.     The state board unanimously approving the policy guidelines that were recommended by the Tennessee Education Advisory Committee (TEAC) in April 2011.

2.     Direct and intensive training for inter-rater reliability for everyone conducting observations and/or evaluations.

o   We trained close to 6,000 administrators and instructional leaders in four day trainings, in cohorts of about 50. We contracted with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) for intensive training and norming around the rubric. Training culminated in a required inter-rater reliability certification test.

o   It was a huge feat. Nonetheless, we will have to provide ongoing training.

3.     Nine regional trainers are now working in the field to train additional staff and  work with principals and district leaders to support high quality implementation and answer additional questions related to implementing the system.

What are the big questions that remain unanswered?

Out of the gate, you[A1]  should be working on non-tested grades and subjects. It is the biggest issue for states and one of the most challenging to get right.

We are still finding our way with non-tested grades and subjects and determining what the alternative growth measures look like for each group of educators. We are doing some pilot work this year informed by the development team recommendations  and working with the technical advisory group to evaluate the pilots this year. That works continues. We feel good about the team’s recommendations and excited about the possibilities for coming years for these educators.

For this pilot work, we are  partnering with a number of districts to pilot a different measures and assessments with non-tested educator groups.  There is not a one size fits all solution. Our goal is to approve alternate measures that yield a comparable score distribution with TVASS, then districts will have the option to choose between the approved measures.

 [A1]This was really in response to the question about advise to states embarking on similar eval work.


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