Executive Summary

Will Pinkston

Please tell us a little about your background.

I am an independent communications consultant working on national and state K-12 and postsecondary education reform. I spent much of 2010 as an advocate on-staff with SCORE. Earlier, I helped then-Gov. Phil Bredesen shape the state's successful "Race to the Top" proposal for federal funding, and helped advance Bredesen’s other policy initiatives. I assisted with both of Bredesen's successful campaigns for governor. 

Please describe your current teacher reform efforts.

I am working with a number of for-profit and nonprofit groups that are interested in making sure Tennessee has a more skilled workforce and high school graduates who are college- and career-ready. College- and career-readiness has to start with developing a strong approach to teacher effectiveness.

Do you see a value of what the private sector can bring to discussion? What lessons can be learned from private sector?

When someone has gone their entire career and either not been evaluated or been evaluated infrequently, an evaluation on an annual basis is jarring event. It’s a change and people don’t like change; so, it’s understandable that people are reacting with trepidation and anxiety. Many times evaluations are highly subjective in nature based on a supervisor’s observations or some other performance metric that’s hard to measure. So in that regard, this evaluation system for public educators is a lot fairer than perhaps other types of evaluations because it’s based on real data and real student growth.

What would you say has worked well, broadly speaking, with introducing new teacher evaluations in Tennessee?

From the moment this concept was discussed, in January 2010, there’s been strong public and political support. Education reform is not even a bipartisan issue in Tennessee. It is basically a nonpartisan issue. Everyone is focused on improving the delivery system in public education. Some teachers have been especially open-minded and willing to explore new ideas.

What hasn’t worked well and if you could go back in time, what would you change?

Like any evaluation system, Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system can be improved. The biggest question that remains is: What do you do about teachers for whom value-added data is not available? I know the State Department of Education along with the TEAC continues to wrestle with that particular question.

One thing that I would’ve changed going back to 2010 is simply making a much larger commitment to statewide stakeholder engagement from Day 1 — starting with teachers. When you take on this kind of large-scale change, you don’t necessarily need consensus; but there needs to be transparency and significant communication around what’s going on. The state didn’t do that perfectly on the front end, but the State Department of Education is working to correct that and I have every confidence that going forward they’ll build a process that will work.

The Federal Government and Teacher Evaluation

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