A bill that temporarily would alter the amount that student test score growth impacts teacher evaluations in Tennessee passed unanimously in the House Thursday. But first, lawmakers debated the merits of a system that grades teachers based on scores in subjects they don’t teach.

The proposal, brought to the legislature by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

The bill proposes to phase in the weight of test scores as the state transitions to its new assessment, called TNReady, which will be rolled out during the 2015-2016 school year. Under the proposal, scores from the new test would account only for 10 percent of the teacher evaluation score in 2015-16 and 25 percent in 2016-17, before returning to the current 35 percent in the 2017-2018 school year.

The policy also addresses concerns that teachers of non-tested subjects — such as art and physical education, as well as school counselors — can be penalized for test scores they don’t directly impact. The bill proposes that student growth for those positions count for 10 percent in 2015-16, down from 25 percent, and move to 15 percent in subsequent school years.

Some legislators said that provision is inadequate, however. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) offered an amendment that would prohibit test scores from impacting evaluations of non-testing teachers at all. He said allowing educators to be graded based on the scores of other teachers is akin to grading students based on the scores of their peers.

“Parents would be outraged,” Fitzhugh said.

Rep. Mark White maintained the bill is fair without the amendment, however, because no teacher works in isolation. “Does the librarian not have an effect on student reading?” he asked. “Can a guidance counselor not play a role in affecting student performance?”

Currently, some teachers of non-tested subjects can use portfolios rather than test scores to be graded. In a tweet to Chalkbeat, Fitzhugh said the portfolio model is problematic because “teachers then have to do [an] individual portfolio on every child.” He called it “another burden” on already overworked educators.

Are you an educator? What do you think about the administration-backed bill? Does this proposal allay concerns about teacher evaluations related to non-tested subjects? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.

Contact Grace Tatter at gtatter@chalkbeat.org.

Follow us on Twitter: @GraceTatter, @chalkbeattn.

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