Executive Summary

Tim Gaddis

Please tell me a little about yourself?

Probably I am a little unique here in Tennessee. I am currently in Williamson County Schools as the Teaching Learning and Assessment Director and am involved in principal and teacher evaluation as part of the senior staff.  Previously, I was with the Tennessee Department of Education where I was Director of Teacher Evaluation.  Consequently, I’ve been able to see the system from the design level and from the practitioner level.

What are some the lessons learned from your time at the Department?

Think about the timing of everything. Of all the components, timing has been one of our most difficult issues here in Tennessee.  We began to implement a new evaluation system at the same time other major education reforms were being introduced and mandated.  Change is hard, and failing to think about the tagging of each new reform can cause a lot of extra stress and confusion.  A second important thing to consider is the timing of the process itself.  For instance, how will districts handle evaluations when school ends before all of the data points are in?  Are states able to speed up the return of hard data in order to help schools make appropriate real-time decisions?

How would you solve the data timing issue?

One thing would be the data tools themselves. We are part of the PARCC consortium and there may be a solution on the horizon from PARCC. Once our students get to the point that they are taking assessments online, many of the timing issues may solve themselves.

We should also revisit lagging data. There are leading and lagging indicators for whether the education program and the teacher are successful.  Classroom observations, for instance, would be leading indicators; they give us immediate information that help us to predict performance.  Test scores, though, would be lagging indicators. Using some lagging indicators may put us in a better position than waiting until July or later to finish up evaluationsHuman capital decisions have to have already been made by then.

Editor’s note: (PARCC is a 24-state consortium working together to develop next-generation K-12 assessments in English and math.)

What went really well?

Our training of administrators. There were four intense days. 102 Cohorts. We put them in groups of 40 and 50. And the trainings ran all summer long and all over the state. We collaborated with our universities across the state to host the trainings. The conversation was rich and the feedback was really strong. The evaluation has changed the conversation between the administrators and teachers.

In terms of feedback on the ground, what has been some of the most useful feedback you have received from teachers?

Tennessee’s teachers really are committed to continuously improving their craft.  Many teachers have shared with me that they appreciate the specificity of the observation rubric and the fact that it always includes areas for reinforcement  and areas for refinement of their practice.  They have also expressed that they really appreciate the fact that their administrators are becoming more and more aware and involved in instruction.  Teachers continue to be deeply concerned about the fact that we do not have good growth measures for every teacher.  Many teachers are having a big part of their evaluation based on composite scores that are not very closely linked to their own performance.

What are the three most important things you would tell your counterparts in other states?

1.  I think it is crucial that all parties take the time plan and coordinate the rollout and implementation of a new evaluation.  I include the state legislature, the state’s Department of Education, and districts themselves.  Reform measures need to be staged over time in such a way that they don’t cause confusion and unnecessary  angst.  All parties need to look at reform measures to be sure they actually complement each other and don’t inadvertently create additional problems.

2.  I think states would be well served if they designate staff to focus solely on communication surrounding the new plan.  Honestly gathering input and feedback is crucial to building trust, and giving all stakeholders a steady stream of timely information is a must.

3.  I think that if a state is going to implement a new evaluation system that includes data derived from high-stakes testing, the state should solve the issue of how to get data back in time BEFORE proceeding.

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