Jamie Greene, an instructional coach from Hamblen County, Tennessee listened intently as school leaders from Memphis City Schools, part of a panel of educators state-wide, explained the district's rationale for including student input as part of its teacher evaluation process.
The explanation boiled down to this:
"Who knows better than students what goes on in the classroom? If we frame the questions appropriately, we find that we get much more insight into teachers' performance from students, frankly, than we do from adults"
In MCS, student perceptions are gathered through the TRIPOD survey, administered bi-annually to students. TRIPOD results count for five-percent of a teacher's annual evaluation score; while it seems a small percentage, no other district has yet to include student perceptions as part of its definition of effective teaching.
"It's intriguing, and not as scary as you might think," said Greene.
The Hamblen County school district is on the opposite end of the state from Memphis and differs radically in racial composition, class size and economic status. Greene said she agrees that student perceptions play a crucial role in helping to improve teacher effectiveness, no matter the school makeup.
And, after listening to MCS educators, she believes implementation of a fair and constructive process for capturing that input is possible.
During the recent Tennessee Educational LEADership Conference (LEAD) in Nashville, sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education, Sara Heyburn, with the Tennessee Department of Education applauded Memphis for taking the lead in this area.
"We're very excited about what we've been seeing from the Memphis model," said Heyburn.
Tequilla Banks leads the team charged with development and implementation of teacher evaluations in MCS.
"We are proud to be considered a leader in transforming public education," said Banks. "We still have a long way to go, but we continue to seek input from teachers in our district as we work to refine our evaluation process to find the most effective measures."
Greene said her district has not yet added student surveys to their teacher evaluation process, but if they do, Memphis will be their "go-to" district.
"I didn't know Memphis was a leader in all of this, but now I do," said Greene. "This will definitely be a district that we look to for guidance."
For more information about Memphis City Schools and its efforts regarding teacher effectiveness, please visit www.mcstei.com.