Low-rated MNPS teachers move forward without district plan for improvement

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 12:22am

Roughly 1,000 low-rated teachers in the Metro Nashville Public Schools system are teaching without a formal plan from the district to turn around their performance, officials said Tuesday.

System-wide, 87 out of the district’s roughly 6,000 teachers have a written “plan of assistance” outlining how to improve their performance.

Teachers are graded on a five-point scale where a “five” reflects a high-performing teacher. District-wide, 3 percent of teachers walked away with a score of “one” last year, and almost 18 percent received a “two” — both scores that require intervention.

While most of those teachers don’t have a written turnaround plan, district officials said those teachers now meet with school leaders regularly following their state-mandated evaluations and observations.

“We need to use this system to improve practice,” said Jesse Register, director of schools. “The great majority of our teachers do good work and we need to help them get better.”

More than half of the district’s teachers are receiving a “four” or a “five” in their teacher evaluations — 29 percent received a “five,” about 26.5 percent earned a “four” and more than 23.5 percent were given a “three.”

The statistics came from the district’s Division of Human Capital, which manages the inflow of new teachers, their evaluations and retention. The data, presented to school board members Tuesday, is based off evaluation scores from the 2011-12 school year.

Register said the district needs to spend more time focusing on how to improve teachers, and build teacher trust — not lean toward removing teachers.

“We cannot drop the ball once they come to work for us,” he said.

Half of each teacher’s evaluation is based on the results of principal observations of the teacher performance in the classroom.

For teachers with students taking standardized tests in their subject area, another 35 percent of the evaluation factors in student academic growth from year-to-year, which is measured by Tennessee Value Added Assessment scores. The final 15 percent calculates another data-driven factor of the teacher’s choosing, such as school-wide test scores, which can bring down evaluation scores in struggling schools.

25 Comments on this post:

By: ITGrouch on 2/27/13 at 2:01

Why does the school board not put pressure on the under performing educators to come up with a plan to increase their performance? And what about the educators that had good scores? Nobody is perfect and there is always room for improvement.

By: Trumpet on 2/27/13 at 3:49

Joe/The Collection:


When do we begin to evaluate/grade/check-list the socio-economic-political
enviornment that our teachers and students encounter? Foundational change would/could produce improvement. Agree?


By: courier37027 on 2/27/13 at 6:36

How do these teachers spend professional development days, taking a nap?

At every property tax referendum we were told how taxes and increased funding would mean success for students and teachers. Teachers are underpaid, Race to the Top would ensure money better teachers, how a year round schedule would make better teachers and students.

Above all, despite failure of students and teachers, remember this: charter schools are evil. No, we cannot have an alternate method. This might (gasp) change the educational landscape.

By: govskeptic on 2/27/13 at 8:39

One of the main reasons for school failures, yet no one will take the lead or
fight to change the dismal situation of getting rid of long nonperforming teachers.
Stats show that if your child has one of these type teachers for 2 yrs in a row,
failure and drop out have a very high rate of occurrences, they just can't catch
up as a few more yrs go along.

Long outdated tenure and the long, expensive, and waste of time in procedures sets up a system that the politically correct school systems just allows to continue rather
than correct with reasonable dismissals. Federal interference that only provides
about 10% of funding, but 50% of rules and regulations is hugely to blame as well.

Metro and many other districts are more interested in hiring what is politically
correct in numbers and "balance" versus getting the most dedicated and qualified.
If that is ever corrected we can expect almost immediate improvements.

By: global_citizen on 2/27/13 at 8:42

Two problems, in my experience, make all of this a meaningless excercise. One, teacher pay in MNPS (as in most public school distrcits in the U.S.) is based on tenure and credentials, not performance.

So you have two teachers, both with 15 years of experience and a bachelors degree. One gets evaluated at one star, the other gets evaluated at five stars. Both earn about $50,000 a year.

You can imagine how this is a drain on the morale of good teachers. And the second problem is that the TEA (teacher's union) fully defends bad teachers instead of trying to improve the image and reputation of teachers by weeding out the bad ones.

By: Left-of-Local on 2/27/13 at 8:47

Stellar, Metro.

Exactly when will we get a QUALIFIED school board with a SPINE?

By: westisbest on 2/27/13 at 9:04

yep I think Left of Local pretty much sums it up

By: KENW on 2/27/13 at 9:10

So 21% are poor performing and another 23.5% are mediocre. And the superintendent and school board accept this and make meaningless gestures that will have no impact on the quality of these teachers. I think I figured out why our public school system is doing so poorly.

I really feel sorry for the four and five rated teachers. They should be rewarded financially and professionally. The three star teachers should be put into intensive training and the one and two star teachers need to be let go.

Good/great teachers need to be cherished, rewarded handsomely and valued. Poor performing teachers only drag down the system, the students and the reputation and ability for good teachers to achieve.

By: Specter47 on 2/27/13 at 10:29

There are some great comments here! Understanding the evaluation system is actually pretty easy. You have a system where the subjective input by unqualified and/or biased administrators tilts the evaluation for or against the teacher. Good scores achieved by the teacher can be devalued by a biased principal. So many Metro administrators drink from the Jesse Register Politically Correct trough. They kiss his backside with regularity, instead of presenting their own ideas and sticking to their own beliefs. The good principals are moved or forced to retire. NOTHING has changed since Register took over from Pedro Garcia. Garcia tried everything he could with continuous pushback from MNEA. Doing what was right, and not because it was PC, was Garcia's agenda. But because Register is so PC, he's allowed to remain while Metro Schools continue to decline. Try that for "best practices", Jesse.

KenW, your last paragraph is spot on, man.

By: pswindle on 2/27/13 at 11:07

The principal must have an average of scores from the top to the bottom. I will say without a doubt, the teacher that will cozy up to the principal will get the best grade. There is nothing fair about this evaluation. Some of the best, independent thinking teachers will do their job in teaching and not being the busy body that runs to the principal with every little detail is the one that is graded low. It has to balance because he can't give every teacher a high rating. The TN Legislative Branch created a monster. This is not a way to evaluate teachers. How many other companies evaluate their employees this way. Metro's teachers walk into a classrom with many students that cannot speak English, no discipline or structure in their life. The classrooms are not divided equally. If you want to grade a teacher low, stack the class with the children with the most needs. It works everytime. Most of the teachers that I know should be thanked for what they do. How many of you can read this because of a teacher?

By: jj117 on 2/27/13 at 11:53

Teacher evaluation systems are not going to be fair until the principal is graded as harsly as the teachers he/she supervises. Teachers are given poor evaluations for having an opinion which may disagree with the principal's or for questioning low quality professional development in which they are required to participate.

Dr. Register wants and keeps his "yes" people around him, and demotes or fires those who are not. Teachers are not being treated justly by the administration, period. Until you become a teacher and experience all of political crap they endure, do not pass judgement on how they perform. High test scores and evaluations do not always mean accurate data.

By: d4deli on 2/27/13 at 12:33

A Related Arts Teacher has a score of one. How to improve? Well, 15% of their total evaluation score is based on student performance throughout the building. They get to choose what evalution/testing they want that 15% to come from. Example: Let's say that the students have never gone down in TCAP Reading over the past several years. To be proactive, the related arts teacher even volunteers to help tutor students in reading (the only thing they can realistically do to affect the outcome). The following year, scores are tallied, and the school goes down over all in TCAP Reading. If the teacher has 3 years of experience or less, they then receive a score of 3. If they have more than 3 years of teaching experience, their score is 1. Now, the only way I can see for that teacher to improve, is be a better guesser. Even the best educated guess failed this teacher, and now they have a score of one whichnequates to 15% of their total evaulation.
Where exactly is the fairness to that art teacher, or music teacher or PE teacher?

By: BigPapa on 2/27/13 at 1:22

Everyone agrees that the current system is broken, but any suggestions to change it are shot down by the NEA. (Unless that change is simply an across the board raise for teachers.)

The schools appear to be a black hole with no discernible end in sight to their waste of the tax payer's money and the student's time.

By: BigPapa on 2/27/13 at 1:25


Perfectly on point.

By: Rasputin72 on 2/27/13 at 6:30

I went to public schools before the introduction of underclass classmates. Even then there were more bad teachers than good teachers.

My children went to very tough peivate schools and 80% of the teachers were helpful in getting my giels into Vanderbilt.

By: Maestra on 2/27/13 at 6:37

Hi KenW,
Re: your comment that teachers with a score of three should receive intensive training, I wanted to let you know that the state describes a teacher with a score of three as a "rock solid teacher." I am a teacher and we were actually told many times by many people to "aim for a three" (which is interesting, but I won't get into that at the moment.) I scored higher than that, but I did want to let you know that 3 is considered a good score.


By: JeffF on 2/27/13 at 8:39

I don't know boys and girls, but a lot of these statements about the unfairness and bias in teacher evaluations are actually beginning to sound like the evaluation processes and pitfalls at many places I have worked. Are teachers finally seeing how the real world works? The only difference appears to be the favored ones in my world can get extra money for being exceptional while union rules in their world prevents rewards.

By: firstworldproblems on 2/27/13 at 10:59


Please. I would love to see anyone in "the real world" work in a high-need Metro school and get evaluated. NOT Hume-Fogg, but a place more like Whites Creek, Antioch, Glencliff, Stratford, etc. Then come and tell us all about how objective this evaluation system is.

Until you are a teacher, and have been through the evaluation process to understand how ridiculous it is, do not presume to know anything about it. It has nothing to do with a lack of perspective about the real world. Believe me. For instance, a principal will walk in, unannounced, do a 15-minute observation, and expect a teacher to cover 15 areas on a rubric. If you do not cover all of those things, you cannot get a 4 or a 5. So, if you were showing a very relevant video clip about the Civil War during the 15 minutes that your principal walked in, and did no group work, were not asking questions, and had no handout, you would probably get a 2, because you were missing at least 8 of the points on that rubric, even though you may do all of those things later in the lesson that day. Or maybe you already did them. Does that sound fair to you? This is not an exaggeration. It is on the state website.

You will be hard-pressed to find a teacher who doesn't want an evaluation system of some kind. We all agree that teachers do need to be held accountable. The solution is to have independent third-party evaluators come in, who are not familiar with our system and faculty, to do our evaluations. That would cut down immensely on bias, as these people would be doing this for a living, rather than relying on principals who randomly throw in an unannounced evaluation between writing a kid up and fulfilling their daily cafeteria duty. Another solution would be to videotape every lesson that is evaluated. This would allow teachers some recourse should they try to dispute their scores.

By: govskeptic on 2/28/13 at 8:25

Principals and teachers are just beginning to realize that the old system of no
evaluation of themselves was the best thing since fried chicken. That day is over
and should have been 20+ years ago. It is not impossible to come up with as
fair an evaluation for these profession as is done with many others. If I were a
principal, the first thing I would look for in my teachers is how often they are
absent from work. Do they take off every sick day as it's accumulated? Do most
of their absences take place on a Mon. or Fri. If that's were the case, I'd say
you are out of here. Lack of dedication also means lack of lesson plans and effort.

By: BigPapa on 2/28/13 at 8:32

govskeptic I only disagree with one thing, nothing is as good as fried chicken.

Realistically until the good teachers push their union to stop defending tenure and protecting bad teachers all this stuff is a waste of time.

Why cant we hire teachers under something like a 5 yr renewable contract. This would give the teacher a degree of security but also allow the schools to weed out those that aren't good or just get lazy.

By: JeffF on 2/28/13 at 9:14

I don't think you actually read what I wrote Ms. Martyr

By: firstworldproblems on 2/28/13 at 7:22

No, I read what you wrote. You compared teaching to "the real world." And until people like you start treating teachers like professionals, with, you know, real jobs, then things are not going to change. Whether you like the union or not, it also does good things, like giving us protected planning time, which the general public would love to take away from us. Many seem to think we should be able to stay after school for another five hours a day to grade papers and plan for the next day, on top of the three hours that we all already do that. As it is, our planning is being taken away by ridiculous meetings and "professional development" that is completely meaningless.

Second, I am not a martyr. I am simply a person in my field, defending my field, asking that you not try to imply that you know more about it than I do. I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for me. I'm just trying to give people the facts about this evaluation system before they go off running their mouths, yet again, about how horrible teachers are, and how all of us are idiots and know-nothings. A little perspective, is all.

Third, you assume that I am a woman. You might want to go back and read what I wrote, Jeff, and find any pronouns anywhere in my response that referred to my own gender. You will find that there are none. Thank you.

By: JeffF on 3/1/13 at 7:41

Professionals in other industries have unfair review processes, work exceptionally long hours, are salaried, and in almost all cases are not unionized. Doctors, lawyers, CPAs, engineers, architects, etc do not obsess about having to work late or at home nearly the amount professional teachers do.

We get it evaluations suck. But surprise they suck for almost everyone in their working lives. The difference is that your profession of choice has been shielded from the process for so long that it seems like the process is abnormal. Everyone gets reviewed by a supervisor who does not see the real work they do. That is why they are supervisors and not coworkers.

I am a professional of generally accepted definition. I do not have planning time at work if I have billable tasks to perform. I have to do my development and prep wherever free time occurs. Often it is at home, after office hours, or in a hotel. If I required my employer to allocate down/unbillable hours during the work day to prep for future work I would be let go. That is what being a "professional" is about. It is my responsibility to keep up, not my firm's. Your union provided work place and day is the definition of a "shop". Professionals do not work in shops.

By: JeffF on 3/1/13 at 7:46

Professionals also do not have charts that graph out for us what we will be paid each year for the next 20 years of service based entirely on education level and experience. Do not even try to say those are the idea of school directors because I know those are the most protected and pieces of paper in education. They are what allow you to get raises every year without losing the ability to claim you are not getting raises.

By: firstworldproblems on 3/1/13 at 7:03

Our profession has never been shielded from the process. Teachers have always been evaluated. It just so happened that before the TEAM system was enacted, each teacher was evaluated based on his/her own performance. Now, the data of the entire school counts against my score. I'm sure you seem to think that that is somehow the way that every profession works, but it doesn't. A lawyer doesn't make less money because his friend doesn't win a case. A doctor doesn't get a lower evaluation score because his fellow surgeon lost a patient. If I am a good teacher, my evaluation should reflect MY abilities, not my co-workers'.

Second, and you know this but are choosing not to address it, there are so many outside factors to teaching that are absolutely not controllable. This is the elephant in the room that critics love to ignore. Poverty is the largest contributor to low performance. How many times does this need to be said? The worst-performing schools in Nashville are the ones with the largest amounts of free- and reduced-price lunches. If I teach at one of these schools, and the kids start off below basic at the beginning of the year, realistically they are not going to move to proficient or advanced. Some of them may. More feasibly, they will move to basic. Great gains, great for my TVAAS, but not enough for a great evaluation. Does that make me a failure? Does that make me a bad teacher?

So, to all of you who are experts in my field (or job, since you refuse to think of me as a professional, despite two masters degrees in the subject , a 4 on my evaluations and a 5 on my TVAAS last year), what would be your solution? Please, enlighten us with your vast knowledge of pedagogy and policy. Tell me how to get more than 5 parents to show up for conferences. Or, even more basic than that, tell me how to get working phone numbers so that I can contact them to invite them to conferences in the first place. Oh, wait. They live in hotels. They move every week. Why aren't they doing well on the tests again? That must be my fault too. Do you have people swearing at you and calling you every name in the book all day in your profession? Do you have people threatening to sue you where you work?

To address your other point about professionals not having a chart, or "salary schedule," that is fine with me. Since you think I should not be considered a professional, and rather an hourly employee, a person with my education and experience in the work world would probably make about $40/hour. I am usually at school about twelve hours per day. I would like not to pay into the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System anymore either. Also, I do not pay dues into MNEA.

According to an hourly wage, I would be getting paid over twice what I make on my paycheck right now. That sounds pretty good to me.