Successful public schools are key to the future prosperity and economic growth of American communities. That is why my organization, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, has been so supportive of Tennessee’s move to a high-quality, statewide teacher evaluation and support system.
In 2009, when Tennessee began making this difficult change, our students were near the bottom of national rankings – much like Michigan is today. Instead of ignoring our poor results and continuing to do things the same way, we invested in what matters – teaching quality.
Today, Tennessee is the national leader in student growth and our willingness to undertake difficult change is paying off.
We know that the most important factor for student success is the quality of classroom instruction. That is why, when our students were so far behind, we invested in the quality of teaching. Our legislature and governor took the lead by replacing our old, ineffective system with a comprehensive, annual evaluation tool designed to improve instruction and learning. In 2013, we began to see significant results: Tennessee was the fastest-improving state on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, including in fourth-grade reading.
Much like the Michigan business community, which has voiced significant concern about worker preparedness, we knew that our students were not graduating ready for college and careers. During our first year of Tennessee’s new evaluation and support system, our chamber projected a shortage of 22,000 qualified workers for high-skill, high-wage jobs in our region over the coming decade. Local businesses continue to compete fiercely to fill hundreds of unfilled science and technology jobs. Our education system had to try a different approach.
With our new evaluation system in place, teachers are getting real-time feedback on their instructional practices throughout the school year. Importantly, student achievement results are at the center of that professional conversation. Just like in so many other professions, they are provided with the coaching they need to grow and improve. As a result, our students are showing dramatic improvement.
Michigan has an opportunity to learn from Tennessee’s example. We invested heavily in teaching quality and it has proven to be the right course of action. Right now, Michigan lawmakers are debating a $15 million investment – about $9.50 per student – to invest in a statewide system of educator evaluation and support. This is an essential component of having an honest, meaningful conversation about performance and how to improve instruction for your students.
In Tennessee, leaders from business, education and state government came to realize that the status quo was simply not working. In order to honor our commitment to a brighter future for our schools, we invested in improving classroom instruction and are now beginning to see real results.
Now is Michigan’s time to invest and turn the tide. Michigan students should not have to wait.