Future of Teaching

State board approves new teacher license policy

The Tennessee board of education voted Friday to replace a policy that meant teachers could lose their licenses if their scores on evaluations were low. Starting in the 2015-16 school year, Tennessee teachers who garner high scores on their evaluations will earn points toward advancing or renewing their licenses and will be responsible for fewer professional development courses than their lower-scoring peers—but low evaluation scores will not prohibit a teacher from renewing a license.

The change is a partial victory for the Tennessee Education Association, which had contested the previous policy. But the Tennessean reported Friday that the TEA questions the legality of tying licenses to evaluations at all. Up to 35 percent of teachers’ evaluations in Tennessee are based on TVAAS, the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System, a measure of students’ growth on the state’s standardized test—a measure the union publicly rejected last school year and is challenging in court.

Tennessee teachers are responsible for earning 30 state-approved “professional development points” in order to have their licenses advanced from “practitioner,” the initial license, to “professional,” and 60 to have their professional licenses renewed. Teachers have traditionally been able to earn points by taking university courses, becoming National Board certified, or taking approved training courses.

The new policy means that high-scoring teachers can also get points for their evaluations: Those who receive a 5, the highest ranking, will receive 20 professional development points. Those who receive a 4 will receive 15 points, and those who receive a 3 will receive 10 points. Those who earn the lowest scores on their evaluations will receive no points for their evaluations, but can still earn points through the traditional route.

B. Fielding Rolston, the chair of the state board of education, said the new policy means “a teacher can choose the direction they want to go in for renewal or advancement: evaluation scores or professional development.”

Top teacher

Franklin educator is Tennessee’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year

Melissa Miller leads her students in a learning game at Franklin Elementary School in Franklin Special School District in Williamson County. Miller is Tennessee's 2018-19 Teacher of the Year.

A first-grade teacher in Franklin is Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year.

Melissa Miller

Melissa Miller, who works at Franklin Elementary School, received the 2018-19 honor for excellence in the classroom Thursday evening during a banquet in Nashville.

A teacher for 19 years, she is National Board Certified, serves as a team leader and mentor at her school, and trains her colleagues on curriculum and technology in Franklin’s city school district in Williamson County, just south of Nashville. She will represent Tennessee in national competition and serve on several working groups with the state education department.

Miller was one of nine finalists statewide for the award, which has been presented to a Tennessee public school teacher most every year since 1960 as a way to promote respect and appreciation for the profession. The finalists were chosen based on scoring from a panel of educators; three regional winners were narrowed down following interviews.

In addition to Miller, who also won in Middle Tennessee, the state recognized Lori Farley, a media specialist at North City Elementary School in Athens City Schools, in East Tennessee. Michael Robinson, a high school social studies teacher at Houston High School in Germantown Municipal School District, was this year’s top teacher in West Tennessee.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen praised the finalists for leading their students to impressive academic gains and growth. She noted that “teachers are the single most important factor in improving students’ achievement.”

Last year’s statewide winner was Cicely Woodard, an eighth-grade math teacher in Nashville who has since moved to a middle school in the same Franklin district as Miller.

You can learn more about Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year program here.


Have you thought about teaching? Colorado teachers union sells the profession in new videos

PHOTO: Colorado Education Association

There are a lot of factors contributing to a shortage of teachers in Colorado and around the nation. One of them — with potentially long-term consequences — is that far fewer people are enrolling in or graduating from teacher preparation programs. A recent poll found that more than half of respondents, citing low pay and lack of respect, would not want their children to become teachers.

Earlier this year, one middle school teacher told Chalkbeat the state should invest in public service announcements to promote the profession.

“We could use some resources in Colorado to highlight how attractive teaching is, for the intangibles,” said Mary Hulac, who teaches English in the Greeley-Evans district. “I tell my students every day, this is the best job.

“You learn every day as a teacher. I’m a language arts teacher. When we talk about themes, and I hear a story through another student’s perspective, it’s always exciting and new.”

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has brought some resources to help get that message out with a series of videos aimed at “up-and-coming professionals deciding on a career.” A spokesman declined to say how much the union was putting into the ad buy.

The theme of the ads is: “Change a life. Change the world.”

“Nowhere but in the education profession can a person have such a profound impact on the lives of students,” association President Amie Baca-Oehlert said in a press release. “We want to show that teaching is a wonderful and noble profession.”

As the union notes, “Opportunities to teach in Colorado are abundant.”

One of the ads features 2018 Colorado Teacher of the Year Christina Randle.

“Are you ready to be a positive role model for kids and have a direct impact on the future?” Randle asks.

Another features an education student who was inspired by her own teachers and a 20-year veteran talking about how much she loves her job.

How would you sell the teaching profession to someone considering their career options? Let us know at [email protected].