Social media was hard at it this weekend over the PreK/Kindergarten Student Growth Portfolio Model. While Professional Educators of Tennessee is not sold on the portfolio process, it is the current law (see T.C.A. §§ 49-6-103–49-6-110). We believe the current portfolio system takes up too much time for our educators. However, the inaccurate information about pre-K and kindergarten portfolios was spreading way faster than a speeding bullet. So, let’s set the record straight with some accurate details.
- There was no computer glitch or computer error related to portfolios. We confirmed this with a simple phone call to the Tennessee Department of Education. There statement was: “There was no error by our vendor, and there was no computer glitch.”
- The Department further explained: Teachers receive an overall portfolio growth score based on their scores on four separate collections, which look at students’ growth over the course of the school year on specific standards.
- Some teachers mismatched students and/or standards when they were inputting their portfolio information. In those cases, the issue was flagged by a peer reviewer and the teacher received a score of a 1 on that specific collection, which was by design if this mismatch occurred. For example, a teacher may have selected different standards on point A than they did at point B. It is impossible, then, to see whether students grew in their mastery of the standards between those two points or to provide feedback about this individual collection.
- All portfolios have been scored. In 2017-18, the vast majority – about 80% – of pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade teachers received a score of level 3, 4, or 5 on their portfolio student growth measure.
- More than half of teachers received a level 4 or 5 on their portfolio. Only about 7% of teachers received an overall score of a 1. In many cases, that is because the educator’s students showed no or negative growth.
Professional Educators of Tennessee is currently working with the Tennessee Department of Education to look at Pre-K and K portfolio problems that may exist, knowing we have already had some input, and changes are already in progress. Some organizations are suggesting teachers file a grievance and that is within their rights. Unfortunately, that recommendation will not really resolve the issue, and will likely lead to frivolous litigation. In addition, there is no state grievance that can be filed. And every local system has a different grievance procedure. As a reminder, this was a hold harmless year on portfolios. Per Public Chapter 751, for the 2017-18 school year, employment termination and compensation decisions for pre-kindergarten or kindergarten teachers shall not be based solely on data generated by the portfolio model.
Our objective, like every problem that surfaces for our members, is to identify the issue and find an attainable solution for those problems. To that end, we work regularly with the Department of Education, State Board of Education and Tennessee General Assembly in order to resolve any issue as soon as possible, and to make necessary changes, as we move forward in a pro-active manner. We will offer to our members any assistance, if they feel their scores are in error. We will work directly with the Department to get an answer to why they received the score and/or correct any error.
We will be providing our members more information later today, and in the future, the best way to address any issues they have encountered with their pre-K and kindergarten portfolio scores. In the meantime, all PreK/Kindergarten teachers please see this document for planned changes to improve in 2018-2019.
Based on teacher feedback, there will be improvements made to the portfolio platform in the 2018-2019 year. For example, the department has already streamlined a number of components to reduce the time burden for teachers completing a portfolio in the future. They have worked with their vendor, Educopia, to help teachers understand how their portfolio was scored. Additionally, they have put a number of new guardrails in place next year to pre-populate some information for teachers in the portfolio platform to reduce the risk for user error. It is unfortunate these steps had not already occurred for our teachers.
Educators are making a positive, lasting difference in children’s lives across Tennessee. Our PreK/Kindergarten teachers are a vital part of the effort to unlock each child’s potential for success. Any portfolio system used must be transparent and consistent. Better still, it needs to be simple to explain, with easily understood feedback for our overworked educators. Unfortunately, in the current state, the portfolio process did not work as well as it was intended and needs changes. The Department of Education continues to innovate, learn and correct their mistakes. Changes are forthcoming. We will make sure our member’s voice is heard. And that isn’t a rumor, it’s a fact.
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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.