Last year, when Tennessee was named one of the first two states to win a federal Race to The Top grant, worth $501 million, there was great joy all around.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has the job of implementing President Obama’s signature education program, praised Tennessee officials for having “the courage, capacity and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students.”
Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, called his state “the focal point of education reform in the nation.” Tennessee’s new motto is “First to the Top.”
So you would think that educators like Will Shelton, principal of Blackman Middle School here, would be delighted. The state requires that teachers be evaluated by their students’ test scores, and that principals get into classrooms regularly to observe teachers.
You probably see where this is headed: principals bogged down in observations, paperwork and required pre- and post-observation interviews; teachers evaluated, in part, on the test scores of students they don't teach.
As occasional Pith contributor Nashville Jefferson opined last month on his blog: "Our problem? Everyone got really excited, but we didn’t do a great job with the follow-through." Or as Principal Shelton puts it a bit more bluntly in the Times' account: "I’ve never seen such nonsense."