School board reviews lengthy process for firing low-performing teachers

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 12:01am

Metro Nashville Public Schools officials are opting to use poor teacher evaluations for the first time this year to help justify firings, but members of the school board expressed little concern about the new expected practice.

Instead, the members appeared more concerned with aspects not under their control, such as the formula for grading certain teachers and the board’s statutory role in processing dismissals, which are dictated by state law.

The board met Tuesday to review the 16-step process the district plans to use when firing teachers.

The discussion came after members were confused at a board meeting two weeks ago that included a vote to advance the dismissal of an East Nashville teacher accused of texting in the classroom, using a demeaning tone with students and repeatedly scoring low on teacher evaluations. On a tie vote, the board ultimately decided not to pursue dismissing the teacher.

Last school year, 195 teachers — about 3.2 percent of MNPS’ educators — earned the lowest score possible on their teacher evaluation, which measures them on a scale of “one” for the lowest scores to a high score of “five.”

Dr. Jesse Register, MNPS’ director of schools, told board members in an email this month around 60 teachers are expected to score a “one” for the second year in a row and could face dismissal.

The workshop was meant to be a primer for school board members to understand the process for dismissing teachers, but the presentation turned into an opportunity for the board to question whether the district should change the evaluation system it uses or whether it should have power in the first place to disrupt teacher dismissals deemed worthy by the district superintendent — both decisions which are governed by state law.

Any time a principal wishes to dismiss a teacher, the district goes through steps that include running the reasons by the district’s legal staff, a statutorily required decision by the school board to sign off on moving forward on the dismissal process, give the teacher access to an impartial hearing then circle back with the board for a final decision to let the teacher go.

“The statue has forced us into this strange position. This is a very district-level decision,” said Amy Frogge, a board member who said she’d like to see the state legislature change the law that requires the board to sign off on moving forward with a dismissal. “To me it’s a pointless step.”

While the district is poised for the first time to review two years of teachers’ evaluation data to determine whether to dismiss a low-rated teacher, as permitted by law, Register said any decision to fire a teacher will be taken carefully.

“When I look at it, there is no automatic,” said Register. “Teacher dismissals are not taken lightly ... Just because you have a 'one,' that does not mean you’ll be dismissed.”

In the future, Board Chairwoman Cheryl Mayes said she’d like the board to wipe the names of teachers up for dismissal off the board agenda when it comes before the board for initial approval to move forward. District legal officials said they needed to examine whether they can legally do that.

Members also criticized the teacher evaluation process adopted by MNPS called the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model. The formula requires half of a teacher’s evaluation to come from observations and the other half from metrics like student performance and growth. Most teachers whose students are not tested by standardized test have more of their evaluation based on in-class observations, but have more than a third measured by student data they have little direct control over.

The evaluation process was set by the state of Tennessee, but districts can opt to use other methods that factor in student test data. While some members expressed interest in switching to a new system, Register argued a switch would waste the millions of dollars in time and training the district has already invested in the current model.

7 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 7/24/13 at 5:38

Lengthy process indeed! More articles of protection and bureaucracy than a
declaration of war would require. It's long past time much of this process is
streamlined so that a district does not have their hands completed tied up so
tightly that the worst of the worst can't even be dismissed. The age old process
of just reassigning the incompetents to some other area must now be eliminated.

By: Rocket99 on 7/24/13 at 7:50

The process needs to be in such a way where a principal can't fire a teacher simply because they don't like the person or they are not in the "in crowd". Needs to be based on the true effectiveness of the teacher.

Also, if the teacher has a low score, there needs to be documented evidence where the principal has worked with the teacher on improving the areas of concern.

Who evaluates the principals? Should the teachers be able to do a review on their boss? I think they should. It needs to be a process where the principal can't retaliate simply because one or more teachers gave them bad marks. Over the years, Metro has definitely had some very bad principals who should have either been terminated or sent back to the classroom.

By: djarrell on 7/24/13 at 8:27

For two torturous years I was harassed, stalked, discredited, suspended, and written up by thr most hateful, spiteful, prejudiced principal in MNPS. She went after the oldest white females first so I was the third to experience her wrath. I couldn't change my age, I couldn't change my color, i couldn't change State law, and I apparently went to the wrong church. This principal has been transferred from school to school to school and spreads her hatred. There is no protection for a teacher under her inhumane conditions. She rose to power under the dictatorship of Pedro Garcia with fear and intimidation. She is incapable of evaluating anybody due to her self-righteous ways.

By: bfra on 7/24/13 at 11:48

What about Register & the under performing board members?

By: meri on 7/24/13 at 1:56

The system of evaluating Metro teachers is flawed, and I feel that Dr. Register takes that fact very lightly. I was one of the parents who spoke out in favor of Ms. Sherrie Martin, the Lockeland teacher who was unfairly evaluated and was in danger of loosing her job. Ms. Martin is a wonderful teacher who has had great evaluations and has taught for 18 years. She was named "Teacher of the Year" at Hattie Cotton only 3 YEARS AGO. Then she transferred to Lockeland where she was told immediately that she "didn't fit the look" of the school and was reminded again and again that she was a "transfer" and wasn't "hired" at Lockeland. She went from receiving high evaluations to receiving a "2" practically overnight. She was only evaluated by ONE person in 2 years, the principal, who seemed to have a problem with her from the moment she set foot in the school. No teacher should be evaluated by just ONE person, especially if her scores changed so dramatically from merely transferring schools. My son was a student of hers this past year, and he thrived with her as his teacher. Over a half a dozen parents spoke out for Ms. Martin at that Board meeting and many others were present supporting her. We were all grateful that Board members Amy Frogge, Jill Speering, Jo Ann Brannon, and Sharon Gentry took pause to ask questions and make sure that they understood for what they were voting. Amy Frogge even said that she didn't just want to "check the box" if it was not the right thing to do. Board member, Elissa Kim, who represents District 5 (where Lockeland is located), disappointingly asked NO questions about Ms. Martin or anything about the case after hearing from the parents. Dr. Register simply tried to go ahead with certifying the dismissal charges. Not only did he seem to be completely unmoved by anything that the parents, who had first-hand knowledge of Ms. Martin, had to say, but he appeared frustrated with the Board members who were asking questions. Let me add that according to the TELL Survey (Teaching, Empowering, Leading, Learning) in Tennessee, about 60% of teachers at Lockeland do NOT feel they are evaluated objectively. Our Metro teachers need to be supported and evaluated fairly.

By: 1proeducator on 7/25/13 at 9:04

No one has any idea what the educators go through in this school district. The bureaucracy that goes on behind the scenes is absolutely disgusting. Administrators have been given so much control that teachers are literally bullied and intimidated daily. These administrators are not placed in schools based on their high "test scores" or their college transcripts, instead they are placed based on who's best friend they are. Everyone seems so worried about the state of our schools, well - go in and clean house and might I suggest they begin at the board of education with all of the "good ole' boys" and "girls" - let's not forget the girls as they can be just as vicious and bigger bullies than the men. It saddens my heart because this district could be a top notch school system, but it will NEVER be "above average" or "proficient" as long as the politics that run the system are allowed to remain in their high paying seats. Teachers are the low men/women on the pay scale and treated as such. Nashville should just be prepared to remain "below basic" until someone is brave enough to come in and wipe out the entire office staff at Bransford Avenue - starting with Dr. R himself.

By: 1proeducator on 7/25/13 at 9:29

And might I add that allowing the board members to review a file of a teacher that is up for possible termination is not the answer. I have recently learned much of how those files are handled, including falsified information being placed in those files. None of them can be trusted in those offices, they will lie and hide the facts to cover themselves in every situation.