Haslam and teachers met at Demos Steak and Spaghetti House in Lebanon and held a lengthy conversation ranging from new laws that have affected teachers to changes in teaching over the last decade.
Its a long way from Capitol Hill to the classroom, Haslam told the teachers, adding that he was meeting with many around the state to understand their jobs and what they experience.
Lebanon High School English teacher Deborah Pate was outspoken about the new teacher evaluation system that is critical in teachers achieving tenure or keeping their jobs.
I agree with Mr. Haslam that the old system made it way too easy to achieve a [score of] five, Pate said.
Pate explained the teachers evaluation is rated on a scale from one to five and play a large part in whether they can get tenure. At each school, principals must perform four evaluations for each teacher.
Several teachers were concerned about the evaluations, with Robert Brindos saying he has to perform to standards he felt were nearly impossible to reach to obtain tenure. Brindos has been a teacher at Mt. Juliet Middle School for two years and is not eligible for tenure for another year.
If nobody gets a five then somethings wrong, because we do have many outstanding teachers. But also, if everyone gets a five then somethings wrong, Haslam said.
Pate said that many of the things contained in the evaluations are not observable, and pointed out they were told it was nearly impossibly for a teacher to achieve an overall rating of five.
She said teachers at Lebanon High were told a rating of three was rock solid and likened that to telling her own students that getting a C was a good grade. Haslam said there are many teachers who deserve to get a four or a five rating and they shouldnt be told the achievement is impossible.
Now what theyre hearing is its going to be near impossible to get the highest rating, Haslam said.
Principals must conduct three unannounced 15 minute observations of each teacher during class and one observation of a full 90 minute class period. Pate remarked that shes never had a principal sit through the entire 90 minutes because of various things that come up that need the principals attention.
I think there should be multiple ways of achieving that data, Pate said, referring to teacher assessments. She suggested giving all of their students the evaluation sheets to fill out questions about their teachers performance. Pate and other teachers at the table said they were in support of the new evaluation rubric.
Also, Ginger Ash, a third grade teacher at W.A. Wright Elementary School said that technology is lacking at her school and many others. She pointed out the teachers are evaluated on the use of technology in their lessons, but said the lack of technology hurts those evaluations simply because little is available to them.
Were being held accountable in our evaluations but its lacking. Were still using the overhead projectors, which my teachers used when I was in school, Ash said.
She and other teachers noted that Haslam was very surprised at the lack of technology in the classroom and said he was listening to all of their concerns throughout the lunch meeting and felt he sincerely took them under consideration.
Ash felt the State should provide more funding for technology beyond providing one group of laptops that teachers can use. W.A. Wright has a roving laptop classroom but Ash said it is very inconvenient to use. She pointed out that schools need technology such as projectors in every classroom, smart boards and more.
I think he agreed with us, she said.
Earlier in the day, Haslam listened to concerns from local business owners at Cumberland University, who gave him feedback about workmans compensation and regulations.
No job is ever created anywhere by government, Haslam said, indicating he was trying to put a focus on helping existing businesses within Tennessee to grow and create more jobs.
He said that 85 percent of new jobs created in Tennessee in the last decade were from businesses already located within the state.
Keith Anderson of Fortune Plastics said that workmans compensation needed a large overhaul. He said that cases were employees are injured on the job are never fairly reviewed.
Certain themes come up and workmans compensation is definitely one of them, Haslam said, referring to other conversations he has had with businesses across the state.
Peter Demos, owner of Demos Steak and Spaghetti House said the attitude of state employees that enforce regulations should change instead of the regulations themselves. He said it often seems regulations arent posted in a timely manner and businesses arent aware of what they need to comply with.
Haslam encouraged all business owners to get in touch with representatives from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which he has given nine regions across the state with a handful of representatives for businesses to contact.
Contact Patrick Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org