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Memphis Schools To Adopt New Teacher Observation System

Memphis City Schools will begin using a new teacher observation system based on Randa's TOWER system this year.

Known as OPTES, for Online Principal Teacher Evaluation System, the new program was developed to support the district's new method of teacher evaluation, the Teacher Effectiveness Measure, and to meet new state requirements that increase the number of teacher observations in Tennessee schools.

Randa's TOWER, for Teacher Observation, Walkthrough, Evaluation, and Reporting, is a mobile observation system built around a centralized database accessed through an online portal. The paperless system allows districts to supply their own rubrics and walkthrough criteria, and includes five reports that can be automatically distributed. A synchronization feature allows administrators to observe without a WiFi connection and upload the results later. Multiple rubrics and custom reports are also available.

Initially, OPTES will have the same functionality as TOWER, though the system will be customized to fit the district's needs as the program proceeds, including observation analysis with automatic links to professional development resources. OPTES will also be expanded to include Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System and achievement scores to create a real-time composite teacher evaluation record.

The new program is being paid for in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who is investing "$90 million to support Memphis City Schools in the implementation of groundbreaking approaches to ensure that all students have access to effective teachers in every classroom," according to information released by the organization.

A beta version of OPTES will be available by August 1, with the official release coming late the same month.

Memphis City Schools serves 119,000 students in 191 schools. The district employs 16,000 people and has an annual operating budget of $773.6 million.

More information on TOWER is available at For more information on the relationship between MCS and the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, visit

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].