Choreographing an Historic Dance

With Insight Education Group’s current Memphis City Schools partnership, we have been uniquely positioned in the middle of the largest school district merger in the history of American education.  The Memphis City Schools District serves 105,000 students and will merge with the Shelby County Schools District, which serves 48,000 students.  Insight has supported Memphis City Schools in developing and implementing the nationally recognized Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM) Instructional Framework for over a year and a half, while Shelby County Schools has been implementing the state’s new Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM) observation process for evaluation.

With the merger that will happen in July of this year, the decision was made for the unified district to use the TEM as its evaluation model.  To the TEM’s credit, after a full year of implementation, the model demonstrated the best distribution of ratings and the strongest observer-to-student growth scoring alignment among all four of the state’s approved evaluation models (including the state’s adopted TEAM).  Other credits of the TEM include revised alignment with Common Core’s instructional shifts and consistently high evaluation responses from district observers who participant in monthly training and norming sessions facilitated by Insight.

After rounds of joint revisions with Memphis City and Shelby County to develop a third iteration of the TEM framework for the merged district, last week served as launch for the TEM 3.0 joint pilot training and implementation for a sampling of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools observers and teachers.  The journey to 3.0 understandably started with a bit of “us” and “them” as the county and city were figuring out how to dance together.  As Insight worked to choreograph this dance, there remained hope for a graceful flow between to the two districts. The merger is a result of the city surrendering its special school district to the county, who didn’t necessarily ask to increase its district by almost three times its current size. Clearly, implementing the city’s observation model in what will be a “new” and larger county district has the potential to be a dance of two left feet!

Now that we are in the midst of two weeks of joint TEM 3.0 observer trainings, these sessions are affirming that regardless of adult tension, discomfort, and even egos, when we push each other to focus on what’s best for kids, the best within us usually shows up.  It has been a joy for city and county colleagues to enter our TEM 3.0 pilot trainings leery and leave acknowledging how the joint task force’s work has made this observation process a better one for all.  Pilot participants have commented on the best of both worlds, TEM and TEAM, being placed on the table so that as one “new” district, the work of improving teachers’ effectiveness can continue in an even stronger, more focused way, so that our students continue to achieve.

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