When he appears before the Tennessee State Board of Education meeting on Friday, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman will propose modifications to Tennessee's newly overhauld teacher evaluation system, TEAM. 

TEAM, an acronym for Teacher Education Acceleration Model, was implemented at the beginning of the school year as a primary component of the state's First to the Top reform efforts. The program requires teachers to be observed by principals at least four times per year and be measured on on a five-point scale.

In a news release, Huffman suggested by conducting two of the required teacher observations in close succession, time could be saved for busy principals and the overall process would be streamlined.

"We have said from the beginning that we will listen and respond to feedback from educators on the evaluation model, and this is exactly what we're doing," Huffman said. "This adjustment made sense, and, if approved, our evaluation system will be stronger because of it."

If the board approves any changes to the new system, they won't be felt in Hamilton County Schools—one of only three school systems in the state using their own evaluation program to measure teacher effectiveness. That program, called Project COACH, went into effect this year as well, and is mostly in line with the state's First to the Top guidelines. 

While the state evaluation system grades teachers on a five-point scale, Project COACH uses a four-point scale to measure the effectiveness of teachers in six key categories—planning and preparation for learning, classroom management, delivery of instruction, monitoring assessment and followup, family and community, and professional responsibilities. 

John Stewart, program manager for Project COACH and a former principal at Brown Middle School, said the four-point scale allowed for a grading system "a little bit more rigorous than Tennessee's."

"We selected a four-point grading system when we knew the state was looking at a five, because when you have a five-point system the middle category is going to be ineffective," Stewart said. "We thought that was an easy out, and wanted to push our principals and teachers."

For Hamilton County, teachers are rated either "highly effective," "effective," "improvement necessary," or "does not meet standards." Summaries of the ratings, which are required to be adjusted to Tennessee standards before being reported to the state Department of Education, will not be available until the conclusion of this school year. 

Another key difference between the Tennessee and Hamilton County evaluation systems is the style in which teacher observations are carried out. Under the state's new TEAM model, teacher observations are scheduled and can last up to 45 minutes. Under Project COACH, observations take place randomly, unannounced, and often.

"It's more authentic, it's not as much of a dog and pony show," Stewart said. "The focus is really on the feedback. The principals will go in and conduct a brief observation, and will then get back and have a feedback conversation with the teacher." 

Upon the conclusion of follow-up conversations, key information is aggregated and entered into an online documentation program.

Stewart said that so far, feedback for the new program has been "mostly  positive," with the majority of complaints coming from teachers working in highly specialized environments. The feedback included an anonymous survey, which generated a response from more than 500 teachers.