State-level work is needed as well to support future teachers . More staff capacity is needed at the Tennessee Department of Education ( TDOE ) to successfully implement educator preparation policies and build stronger relationships with preparation programs . This capacity , as well as the work of the new Director of Networks and Partnerships , should be directed at highlighting promising practices that could improve collaboration between preparation programs and school districts . Finally , the State Board of Education has a critical role to play by creating a rigorous policy for interim reviews of preparation programs , increasing access to and transparency of data on preparation programs , improving the rigor of content assessments , and improving the transparency of admissions processes by requiring programs to report more detailed data about how students are admitted . TDOE must also provide clear guidelines for identifying which EPPs will be subject to interim reviews .
Second , Tennessee must continue its commitment to the state ’ s multi-measure teacher evaluation system . This commitment takes two forms . One is to resist efforts to remove measures of student growth from evaluations or to prevent school and district leaders from using the evaluation system in important decision-making . The other is to continue working to improve and strengthen the evaluation system so it becomes a better means for improving instruction . TVAAS remains an area where significant need exists to broaden and deepen understanding of the growth measure and to ensure that more teachers have an individual growth score or a more tailored , school-wide measure that aligns to their teaching responsibilities . To accomplish these goals , TDOE , the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents , and SCORE should work to deliver clear , accessible , and differentiated information on TVAAS to districts , school leaders , and teachers . Further , all teachers should receive substantive feedback based on their evaluations to inform and improve their teaching practice . Only 58 percent of teachers responding to the 2016 Tennessee Educator Survey reported receiving this feedback , while more than 90 percent of administrators believed teachers received feedback .
Third , improving teacher compensation must remain a top priority . As noted earlier in this report , Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly should be applauded for their commitment to funding increases in teacher compensation , while providing school districts with the flexibility needed to distribute those funding increases appropriately . Governor Haslam and Tennessee ’ s legislators must continue this commitment by once again increasing funding toward teacher compensation during the 2017 legislative session . Ultimately , Tennessee should strive to become the state where teachers aspire to work , and advancing teacher salaries is an important factor toward realizing that goal .
Fourth , Tennessee must better empower teachers through stronger professional learning and expanded teacher leadership opportunities . All educators need targeted , content-specific , ongoing professional learning opportunities to help them hone their teaching practice . Teachers often find they learn best from other teachers . That is why TDOE , partnering with the Tennessee Educational Research Alliance ( TERA ) and school districts , should continue to expand and evaluate peer-to-peer professional learning , with a particular focus on successfully implementing the instructional shifts required for the state ’ s revised math and English language arts standards . The design of these opportunities must ensure early-career teachers receive coaching and support from highly effective peers and that state-led coaching efforts on early literacy are strengthened .
Nongovernmental partners have a role in this work , as well . SCORE , the Tennessee Teacher Leadership Collaborative , the state ’ s educator organizations , and other philanthropic and community partners should expand opportunities for teachers to lead in both practice and policy while in the classroom . To succeed in this work , TDOE and TERA should collaborate to deepen research on promising practices in teacher leadership , with a specific focus on how leadership programs affect teacher morale , retention , and student academic performance .
Finally , ensuring effective school leadership in every Tennessee school must be a higher priority for Tennessee ’ s state leaders . As we have noted every year we have published this report , strong school leaders are essential for increasing student achievement and fostering school cultures that attract , support , and retain highly effective teachers . The Governor ’ s Academy for School Leadership and the Tennessee Transformational Leadership Alliance ( TTLA ) are , together , an important start . TTLA is a statelevel incubator started in 2016 for school leadership that will support the design , refinement , implementation , and evaluation of pipeline programs in regional partnerships . The TTLA Principal Pipeline Program application will be released by the department in early 2017 . Districts and partners should collaborate to design and implement a shared-cost leader pipeline model based on local and regional needs to secure TTLA support . Tennessee must also use its plan to take advantage of opportunities under the Every Student Succeeds Act to sharpen the state ’ s school improvement plan by providing better supports to school leaders in the lowest-performing schools .