Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


TEA Files Second TVAAS Lawsuit, Gov. and Commissioner Named as Defendants

The Tennessee Education Association filed its second lawsuit against the unconstitutional use of Tennessee Value Added Assessment System estimates in high-stakes salary decisions. The federal lawsuit names Gov. Bill Haslam, Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman and the Knox County Board of Education as defendants.

“This second lawsuit includes the governor and commissioner because this really is a state issue,” said Gera Summerford, TEA president. “State policy has forced an over-reliance on flawed TVAAS estimates in high-stakes decisions for our teachers. School districts are following the lead of Gov. Haslam and Commissioner Huffman by putting into place merit pay schemes that rely heavily on TVAAS estimates that do not adequately measure teacher effectiveness.”

TEA’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of Knox County teacher Mark Taylor, an eighth grade science teacher at Farragut Middle School. Taylor was unfairly denied an APEX bonus after his TVAAS estimate was based on the standardized test scores of only 22 of his 142 students.

“Mr. Taylor teaches four upper-level physical science courses and one regular eighth grade science class,” said Richard Colbert, TEA general counsel. “The students in the upper-level course take a locally developed end-of-course test in place of the state’s TCAP assessment. As a result, those high-performing students were not included in Mr. Taylor’s TVAAS estimate.”

“While Mr. Taylor’s observation score was ‘exceeding expectations,’ his low TVAAS estimate based on only 16 percent of his students dropped his final evaluation score below the threshold to receive the APEX bonus,” Colbert said. “Unfortunately, Mr. Taylor’s situation is not an uncommon one. Many teachers across the state – particularly at the high school level – are being unfairly evaluated on an arbitrary percentage of their students.”

The lawsuit includes six counts against the governor, commissioner and local school board. Most notably are the charges that the state has violated Taylor’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection from “irrational state-imposed classifications” by using a small fraction of his students to determine his overall effectiveness.

TEA filed its first TVAAS lawsuit last month on behalf of Knox County teacher Lisa Trout who was unfairly denied the district’s APEX bonus after being misled about how her TVAAS estimate would be calculated. The lawsuit also contests the arbitrariness of TVAAS estimates that use test results of only a small segment of a teacher’s students to estimate her overall effectiveness.

TEA expects additional lawsuits to be filed so long as the state continues to tie more and more high-stakes decisions to TVAAS estimates.

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