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Teachers weigh in on evaluations

Some Farragut-area teachers and administrators perhaps could use a “stress rubric” while trying to fulfill the “educator rubric,” the central outline of Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model intended to better stimulate, and sustain, K-12 student learning statewide.

However, with yearly evaluations of every Tennessee public school teacher tied in to implementing the rubric, “It has made me more aware of what I’m teaching because I have to talk about that more, which in turn makes [students] more aware of what they’re learning,” said Katie Gagley, first-grade teacher at Farragut Primary School.

“The biggest difference between this year and last [school] year is the kids are now more aware of what we’re learning and why we’re learning it and what we’re going to do with it.”

Implementation of a rubric system deemed as extremely detailed began this school year, while every teacher statewide is observed by administrators or specially trained “lead” teachers assessing classroom planning, instruction and environment.

Observations now occur once per semester during a class period for tenured teachers (one announced planning/instruction visit one semester, one unannounced instruction/environment visit the other) and three times for non-tenured (including two instruction, one unannounced) each semester.

“I definitely feel more comfortable with it now than I did in August,” Gagley said of the rubric. “It makes it difficult to embrace or implement all of those things at one time, especially since this is our first year working with it. It has taken a lot of time.”

As a result, teachers have been under much greater pressure to create a more interactive, creative learning environment with students — and prove learning is being sustained on a daily basis through student feedback.

With an average class size of 21 or 22, Katie Wheeler is in her 10th year teaching second grade at FPS.

Saying rubric implementation and evaluation assessment add about 10 hours extra work to her weekly schedule, Wheeler added that some of the teachers she’s talked to “have a lot of anxiety about it ... that could impede learning.”

Along with a pre-observation “planning” meeting with an administrator, teachers also meet with the administrator soon after observations to evaluate scores (from best, 5, to worst, 1).

Jenny Driskill, college preparatory and advanced placement English teacher in the Liberal Arts Academy at Hardin Valley Academy, had a “head start.”

HVA “piloted the program the year before it was implemented, so I believe our stress around here is greatly reduced,” Driskill said.

The rubric’s implementation is “pushing the kids toward a higher order of thinking, doing things more hands on,” Driskill said. “The application of knowledge. You have to problem solve as opposed to just copy things off a power point presentation. ... I do a lot of project-based learning in my classroom. ... they make videos, they get to do a lot of art. ... Work with a lot of tangent topics that let them really see how what they’re learning fits in to the greater study of humanities overall.”


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