Breaking News from Tennessee: Another Lawsuit Challenging Value-Added Use for Elective Teachers

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Just announced late this week, in an article in The Tennessean and another in Chalkbeat Tennessee, is that the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), the state’s largest teacher’s union, filed a lawsuit against the governor, state education commissioner, Tennessee Board of Education, the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education, and the Anderson County Schools Board of Education. They are challenging the use of state test scores to conduct teacher evaluations for teachers of non-state-tested grades and subject areas (i.e., elective teachers), and they are doing this with the full support of the National Education Association (see here).

While in Tennessee the state uses tests to test grade 3-8 grade students in mathematics, science, English, and social studies, two teachers in particular are part of the lawsuit charging that because they taught physical education and visual arts, one did not receive a bonus and the other lost her tenure eligibility, respectively, because test scores of students they did not teach in said subject areas were incorporated into their teacher evaluations.

Recall that this is the state that really lead the nation in terms of its adoption and implementation of value-added systems, thanks in large part to the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS), which is now more popularly known as the Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS), but that was also the main reason the state was one of the first to win federal Race to the Top funds in 2010 landing a total of $501 million. The TVAAS is also being named as part of the problem in this lawsuit in that this is also the system being used to measure growth for these out-of-subject-area teachers. This growth counts for 25% of these teachers’ value-added.

The main problem, as per TEA’s General Counsel Rick Colbert, is that “These [and many other] teachers are [being] evaluated in part based on state assessment scores from students they do not teach and may have never met.” Also according to Colbert, “Depriving someone of those interests on the basis of something they have no control over is arbitrary, and therefore not due process.” This problem is amplified considering that,  “more than half of Tennessee’s public school teachers — about 50,000 — teach non-tested subjects” throughout the state, according to TEA’s President Barbara Gray.

This is actually the third lawsuit contesting the use of the TVAAS. As written into the article in Chalkbeat Tennessee, “The first two suits, filed last March, contested the methodology of TVAAS – which TEA officials say is imprecise – for teachers whose students are tested. Those cases are [still] pending in federal court in Knox County.”

You can read this particular lawsuit in its entirety here.

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