Would proposed “ineffective teacher” policies be hard on small school systems?

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Local education officials say there could be a problem with proposed state legislation that would dictate how school systems manage ineffective teachers. 

The Comptroller’s Office of Research released a study last week showing that students with consecutive ineffective teachers lag behind their peers in school. The end of the study noted some solutions to the problem, including moving ineffective teachers to other schools to disperse them across the district. 

The idea behind the proposed policy is that it would move teachers with low evaluation and Tennessee Value-Added Assessment scores around a district, therefore removing the potential that a student could have two ineffective teachers in a row. 

But Bill Flanary, Director of Washington County schools, said that could be a problem. 

While Washington County had only two teachers that would classify as “ineffective” by the report’s standards, Flanary said that legislation mandating the placement of teachers would be hard on the county in the future.

“Transferring a teacher wouldn’t solve the issue, it would only move the issue somewhere else,” he said. “The idea of moving teachers ‘evenly’ might be effective in a system the size of Nashville or Memphis, but not in a system such as Washington County where there are only 600 teachers to begin with.” 

The report notes that although there are no teacher shortages in the state overall, shortages exist in certain districts and in subject areas. Mischelle Simcox, director for Johnson County schools, said that her district suffers from teacher shortages, and such policy would be difficult for the county to implement across seven schools. 

She also said the county struggles to fill teaching positions and has started pulling teachers from surrounding counties. 

“We have fewer schools with few available slots,” she said. “When you couple that with the difficulties we have finding teachers that I mentioned previously, it would create a very complicated situation for us.”

Sen. Dolores Gresham, R- Somerville, requested the study last year, which specifically examined the number of students in the state that were instructed by ineffective teachers for two consecutive years, and the effect that had on their education. 

The study follows failed state legislature SB-1843 that was introduced to the General Assembly last year and “included language requiring the department to calculate and report the number of students who had consecutive ineffective teachers,” according to the report. 

While the bill didn’t pass in the 110th Tennessee General Assembly, it launched the study, which found that more than 8,000 students in Tennessee were taught by “ineffective teachers” for two consecutive years in the school system. 

There is currently no pending legislation mentioning ineffective teachers on the Tennessee General Assembly website. 

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