After impasse over teacher evaluation, committee disbanded, teacher says

A group of 10 Shelby County teachers worked for eight months with central office administrators to revise the district’s teacher evaluation, but conversations stalled when they couldn’t agree on an appeals process and the number of objectives a teacher needed to meet, a teacher who served on the committee said Thursday.

“We worked hard,” said Margaret Box, a kindergarten teacher who works at Cordova Elementary.  “We agreed on seven of the nine issues.”

The final draft of the evaluation, one Box said she and several other members on the committee did not approve, has caused angry protests from teachers throughout the district and Superintendent Dorsey Hopson scrambling to smooth relations with his largest body of employees.

Teachers say their two sticking points – the requirement to demonstrate all of the required 69 objectives during a principal or administrator observation and an appeals process to dispute an observation score – will make it impossible for any of them to get a level five, the highest level possible, and the bonuses and pay raises that will likely come along with it.

On Tuesday, teachers showed up to the school board meeting to protest the changes. Several media outlets later reported that teachers were so upset that they would collectively call in sick, staging a “sick out.”

Teachers serving on the committee knew both sides didn’t agree when they reviewed the proposal in late April, but didn’t learn that the final draft still included the disputed issues until June, Box said. After they were presented the final presentation, the committee didn’t meet anymore, Box said.

The district administrators didn’t respond to questions about the process itself but maintained the final version of the Teacher Evaluation Model, or TEM 4, is a direct reflection of teacher feedback on several issues including a reduction in the total number of observations, allowing teachers to provide an evaluation of their work and how walk-throughs or random classroom visits from administrators would be conducted.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said Tuesday that he planned to meet with teachers on Sept. 4 to listen to their concerns about TEM 4.  The district’s communications office said officials believe the changes are a significant step forward in giving teachers clear and meaningful feedback to help students achieve ambitious learning goals.

“I’m interested in hearing more from you as we move through the rest of the school year,” Hopson told teachers in an Aug. 22 letter.