Evaluating for Improvement: Perceptions of Tennessee’s Teacher Instructional Growth for Effectiveness and Results (TIGER) Observation Model
Gavin, Erin Imon
In recent decades, research demonstrating both that teacher quality significantly influences student achievement and that teacher effectiveness varies considerably has stimulated a number of reforms aimed to improve the productivity of America’s teachers. Teacher evaluation has emerged as chief among these reforms (Howell, 2015). Spurred in large part by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top priorities and Tennessee’s First to the Top Act, Tennessee counts itself among the early adopters of teacher evaluation reforms. While the majority of Tennessee districts use the state- developed Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM) to gather observational data on teacher effectiveness, a small number of districts use state-approved alternative observation models. Staff at the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) are preparing to review and revise the state’s teacher evaluation policies in an effort to strengthen the connection between teacher evaluation and teacher improvement. TDOE leaders have expressed interest in whether features of the state’s alternative evaluation models may facilitate greater improvement than the more commonly used TEAM evaluation rubric. In particular, the annually administered Tennessee Educator Survey suggests that teachers in districts using the Teacher Instructional Growth for Effectiveness and Results (TIGER) observation model may have more positive perceptions of evaluation as a tool for improvement. At the request of the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA), an evaluation and research center at Vanderbilt University which collaborates with TDOE, we undertook an in-depth examination of the TIGER observation model. Our analysis considered the following questions: 1. Is there a difference in teacher perceptions of evaluation in TEAM districts as compared to districts using an alternative observation model? 2. How do district policies and school practices combine to influence patterns of implementation across districts using the TIGER observation model? 3. How do school and district contexts influence perceptions of teacher evaluation in districts using the TIGER observation model? These project questions led us to identify trends across evaluation contexts, examine policies, perceptions, and practices which shape teacher evaluation and feedback within the TIGER model, and document variation in implementation within and across a set of TIGER districts. We employed a mixed-methods study that explores the relationship between teacher evaluation models and teachers’ perceptions of whether evaluation leads to improvements in their teaching.