Kimberly Smith, principal of North Jackson Elementary School in Jackson, Miss., listened intently and scribbled notes as a panel of Memphis City Schools (MCS) teachers discussed teacher evaluation and recognition during Leader|Share at the University of Memphis.
Her biggest takeaway was feedback on the new teacher evaluation system. Teachers are embracing the system by using it to plan and deliver instruction to meet goals.
"I like how Memphis City Schools has panels of teachers based on what is being discussed," she said. "So many times we hear from administrators, we hear from central office personnel, but we never hear from the people who are impacted the most, and those are the teachers and the students."
For the third year, MCS hosted Leader|Share, a forum in which MCS administrators, staff and teachers share with district leaders across the southeast how to implement the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI) in their respective school districts. TEI is an education model designed to place an effective teacher in every classroom. Components include a new teacher evaluation tool, Teacher Effectiveness Measure, improving teacher environment, compensation, a career pathways system and teacher recognition. District leaders from South Carolina, Mississippi and Arkansas attended the forum.
MCS has developed a high profile in education reform since being selected by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as one of four school districts nationally to receive an Intensive Partnership Site Grant. The $90 million grant is used to implement the initiative over a seven-year period.
Michelle King, executive director for Academic Support for Elementary Schools for Jackson Public Schools (JPS), applied for and secured a $5,000 state TEI planning grant after she received information at last year's Leader|Share. The grants were made possible by additional funding from the Gates Foundation. JPS will implement TEI in 2013.
"I saw it as opportunity for us to collaborate with a district on teacher effectiveness," King said. "Knowing that we as the state of Mississippi would eventually be going to that type of evaluation, I thought this would be an opportunity to get ahead of the game for our school district. We saw gains in our student achievement."
Victoria Van Cleef is vice-president of talent management at The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that helps districts recruit the right hires. She presented national research on "The Irreplaceables," top teachers that school districts cannot afford to lose.
Van Cleef said TEI is a solid plan that puts Memphis City Schools ahead of the curve.
"When you go to look at our report and what we say a district should do to retain its top performers, Memphis already had four of those steps underway," she said. "You have a plan that I can take to another city and say, 'Read this. Take a look at how one city has put it together.'"
Tequilla Banks, executive director of the MCS Department of Teacher, Talent and Effectiveness, is excited about the benefits of both TEI and Leader|Share.
"Memphis City Schools was fortunate to receive such a prestigious grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but we must share what we are learning in this process with others to benefit not only our children, but to benefit children in as many districts as we can," she said. "We are working diligently to properly carry out the initiative's objectives."
MCS will continue to host Leader|Share annually throughout the grant's duration.
(Alisha Tillery is account executive for KQ Communications.)