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Superintendent develops action plan for teacher support

January 21, 2014 
Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of the Knox County Schools, outlined 11 action steps he will implement in support of teachers. Presented in a memo to the Board of Education, the action steps McIntyre developed are based on feedback from educators through various means, including community meetings, small group conversations, a Working Group on Teacher Professional Support and a survey of teachers.

“Through all of these avenues, I have heard many teachers express considerable frustration and anxiety resulting from the tremendous pace of change we have experienced over the past several years,” McIntyre said in the memo. “Based on listening carefully to feedback from our educators, I am convinced that it would be beneficial to make a few adjustments in order to better support our teachers in the terrific work they are doing in educating our children and to sustain the impressive gains in student academic success we have experienced in the Knox County Schools.”

The 11 action steps McIntyre will immediately begin implementing in support of teachers include these:

· Decline to participate in the PARCC Field Test this spring.

· Decline to participate in the optional Writing Assessments this spring.

· Make Discovery Education Assessment a choice for teachers at the Professional Learning Community (PLC) level.

· In the 2014-2015 school year and beyond, give professionally licensed teachers the choice to have all classroom observation visits be unannounced or to have an equal number of announced and unannounced observations. (For professionally licensed teachers in TEAM schools this would mean one announced and one unannounced classroom observation visit.)

· In the 2014-2015 school year and beyond, give professionally licensed teachers in TEAM schools who earn a Level 5 summative evaluation score the choice to have one formal unannounced observation visit and two walk-throughs or to remain with the traditional observation structure. (This is allowed by TN DOE guidelines for teachers scoring Level 5.)

· In the current spring semester ONLY, allow professionally licensed teachers who have not been observed in January to be notified of the month in which their second unannounced classroom observation visit will occur. (This strategy is in response to the unique circumstances associated with the current school year, and therefore would not be repeated in future years.)

Time, Feedback & Support
· Half of the February 17th In-service day will now be dedicated to teacher planning time in their classrooms.

· The school system will not administer the TRIPOD student perception survey in the primary grades (K-2) this spring. The administration of the survey will be completed for developmental feedback only in grades 3-12 this spring, and teachers with multiple classes will be given the choice to select which class completes the survey for this semester.

· Enhance the quality and frequency of professional development on the 19 indicators of effective instruction that are embedded in the teacher evaluation instrument (the “rubric”) for both teachers and observers/evaluators.

· Clarify guidance on Professional Learning Communities and take a different approach to the Conferences of Concern for performance reasons next year.

· The Working Group on Teacher Professional Support will serve as a Teacher Advisory Committee and meet monthly with McIntyre for the remainder of this school year. In particular, McIntyre will further explore the issue of teacher instructional autonomy and limitations on professional judgment. He will continue with a Teacher Advisory Committee structure next year and will develop a nomination/selection process this spring.

The action steps reinforce teacher professionalism by providing voice and choice in critical areas.

“I appreciate the talent and expertise that our teachers bring to the classroom and will continue to seek ways to include teacher voice in our decision-making,” McIntyre stated in the memo, “as well as continuing to embrace teacher leadership as a means of allowing outstanding educators to have a greater role in shaping our instructional work.”

While addressing many of the concerns from teachers, the 11 action steps do not compromise the Knox County Schools’ high standards and rigorous expectations for students and staff.

“We have collectively worked too hard, come too far and seen too much student academic progress to allow ourselves to slip backward,” McIntyre stated.
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