Concerning Fine Arts Portfolios

The Sumner County School Board is proposing shifting to a "portfolio model" for evaluation of Fine Arts teachers in the 2018-19 school year. The Board will hold a study session and discuss the issue on June 5th at 6:00 PM. Here's more on the issue in terms of questions that have been raised over the course of this year about the model:

1) There was an initial suggestion that Sumner County is proposing using this portfolio model because of what is or will be a state mandate.


This is simply not true. There is not a state mandate regarding adoption of a specific portfolio model. In fact, districts choose in May/June of each year the evaluation options they will use to satisfy the state's TEAM evaluation model requirements. 


2) There has been a suggestion that the 18-19 year is a pilot for a "new" version of the portfolio and that  the decision for our county to pilot the portfolio was made so that we will have the opportunity to mold the final product. 


A Department of Education representative confirmed that their is no "pilot" or "new" model in 2018-19 at the state level. The Fine Arts Portfolio remains the same, with the difference being in the new standards and in the online platform (shifting to Educopia, which Kindergarten used this year). In fact, districts using the Fine Arts Portfolio this year already shifted to Educopia (with significant problems). 


3) A suggestion has been made that Sumner risks BEP funds by "backing out" of Fine Arts Portfolios at this point.


This is also not true. The Department of Education confirmed that an evaluation "flexibility survey" was issued to districts on May 23rd and that districts have until mid-June to complete the survey and make the DOE aware of evaluation choices for the 18-19 school year. 


In other words: Sumner County currently has no obligation to proceed with this model for 2018-19. 


4) It has been suggested that Sumner's related arts teachers want to move to this model.


This is not entirely accurate, as the last survey of teachers on this issue was some six years ago. Since then, teachers have seen the full implementation of the state's TEAM model and have watched colleagues in other districts go through the Arts portfolio. Prior to the announcement in August of 2017 that Sumner intended to move to this model, there was not an additional survey or opportunity for teacher feedback. 


5) It has been suggested that "this is where the state is headed, so Sumner might as well get on board."


Only 16 districts in the state currently use the Fine Arts Portfolio. One of those districts is Nashville, and I understand teachers there have had meetings with district leadership about moving away from the model. The Fine Arts Coordinator in Williamson County indicated they have no plans to adopt this model as they view it as cumbersome for teachers and not helpful for students. We will have a new Governor after November and a new Education Commissioner soon after -- it's certainly not clear exactly where the state is headed -- though it does seem clear there's no groundswell of movement toward this model of teacher evaluation. 


6) The portfolio model is problematic


I've taken the time to talk with teachers here in Sumner County and with those in other districts. I know many of you are aware of the significant problems with Kindergarten portfolios -- they take up huge chunks of instructional time and result in significant amounts of uncompensated work for our Kindergarten teachers. 

Here's more on the trouble with Kindergarten portfolios:

While the Kindergarten portfolio is state-mandated, the Fine Arts Portfolio is not. We have a state Department of Education that can't effectively administer testing and can't make portfolios work in Kindergarten - why would we subject additional teachers to a model designed and administered by this DOE? 

Here's more on the experience of related arts teachers in MNPS:

The bottom line: When our teachers shift to this model, it will require additional time and will likely interrupt instructional time. It's burdensome to our teachers and not helpful to our students. 

While the current TEAM model leaves much to be desired, the answer should not be shifting to another bad model. 

Finally, it is sometimes said that a teacher's evaluation score "is just a number" and that our district does not punish teachers based on TEAM scores. However, when a teacher drops from a score of 5 to a 3 or 4, more observations occur. Below a 3? Another process for intervention/observation. This means more work for that teacher and his/her administrators. All in service of a model that's not been proven to benefit students. 

Will Sumner County continue moving forward with this model? Stay tuned ...