Tennessee Principals Association Statement of Support for Flexibility in Teacher Evaluation for the 2020-2021 academic year in response to COVID 19
Emergency rules developed in response to the COVID 19 public health emergency superseded the Tennessee State Board of Education’s policy for teacher and administrator evaluation (5.201). This allowed our state to offer waivers or specific guidance regarding the completion of evaluations during the COVID-19 pandemic based on the local evaluation model. Although this was a necessary action at the time, it does not mitigate the continued need for flexibility during the abrupt transition to online instruction, hybrid teaching models, intermittent absences due to quarantine, and the strict regulations required for face-to-face instruction under the department of health’s re-opening guidance.
It is the position of the Tennessee Principals Association that districts receive flexibility and local authority to identify components of a qualitative appraisal instrument (including TEAM) and/or alternate observation model to uphold and carry out the primary purpose of annual teacher and administrator evaluation for the 2020-2021 schoolyear. The selected instrument should continue to identify and support instruction through feedback and transparency that will lead to high levels of student achievement while not penalizing a teacher who may have made an abrupt change in pedagogical practices and experienced intermittent disruptions to learning caused by COVID 19. Additionally, we believe waiving any resulting accountability related to observation scores for the 2020-2021 school year is appropriate.
Reason 1: Teachers have made quick shifts to a new pedagogy, changes to content area assignments, and variation in instructional pacing. Furthermore, the intermittent attendance of students and staff due to quarantines may negatively affect the pacing and consistency in the delivery of content. There is no model or frame work for the effectiveness of classroom instruction under this duress and circumstance, therefore teachers, in this apprentice-like setting, are learning as they go. In the interest of the burgeoning of new pedagogy, teacher evaluation focused on growth and development should be rooted in feedback rather than accountability to support the new landscape of education.
Reason 2: Teachers in Tennessee have experienced inequities in availability of resources and professional learning for delivering distance learning across schools serving different student populations. *Researchers found that educators shifted quickly to distance learning and provided a variety of support during the widespread school closures, but they indicated needing additional resources. These resources included access to technology and devices for students, teacher training in remote instruction, strategies for motivating students, ways to address loss of students' hands-on learning opportunities, and strategies to support students' social and emotional learning. All of these factors are interwoven into the fabric of quality instruction and cannot be ignored as influential to student achievement.
Tennessee Principals Association Statement of Support for Waiving Standardized Testing for the 2020-2021 academic year in response to COVID 19
Although the Every Student Succeeds Act describes a continuous cycle of reporting student data, issuing school classifications, and using collected data to inform local interventions and supports, it cannot mitigate the impact of COVID19 on continuity of instruction and the contingency planning required in subsequent years following a school closure.
It is the position of the Tennessee Principals Association that standardized assessments required with concomitant accountability under this act should be waived for the2020-2021 academic year.
The 2020-2021 academic year may continue to have intermittent disruptions to learning. Local plans developed in areas throughout the state use health and community data to determine case numbers that influence the functionality of schools. The fluctuation between brick and mortar teaching and virtual or remote options may lack continuity of learning that is outside of typical school practices. This results in an inability to provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Although schools are developing contingency plans for this, states largely focus on providing recommendations rather than guidance. This results in teachers transitioning to virtual learning with limited professional development and infrastructure. Without the guarantee of systematic and consistent curriculum delivered through rich pedagogy, standardized testing will not accurately reflect student achievement and growth, thus negatively impacting both students and schools.
As local districts determine schedules and instructional approaches independently, the rate and level of quality of student instruction will vary among districts. Local districts are mitigating the impact of previous year closures by determining what is critical to teach based on a variety of data sources. Each school is attempting to maximize instructional time and consider how creative scheduling and programming may offset previous year disruptions. In addition to variation in instructional approaches or programming, schools are grappling with responding to trauma, joblessness and an increase in the number of families facing food insecurity, homelessness, domestic violence and even the illness or death of a loved one. We are establishing plans and supports, with limited resources, to assuage the impact this could have on academic projections, especially for our most vulnerable populations.
Waiving standardized testing for the year would allow local districts to prep contingency plans influenced by robust and coherent data. Schools will carefully plan for instructional shifts, gaps, and current standards through the systematic examination of data in the form of interim assessments, benchmarks, and use of diagnostics to inform instruction. Districts can focus professional learning on data analysis, informed decision making based on data, and progress monitoring to determine if instruction can offset the negative impact of school disruption. Without the rigid schedule for standardized assessments this spring, schools can maximize class time and provide a continuity of learning that spans the entire year and is responsive to the needs of all learners within the school.