BOE talks testing data, teacher evals, student grades

A failed state test is inspiring a resolution for Knox County Schools.

KNOXVILLE - The Knox County Board of Education discussed at its work session Monday night whether to let state testing data help determine teacher evaluations and student grades for the current year.

The proposed resolution, sponsored by school board member Amber Rountree, comes in the wake of the state’s recent announcement that it has signed a contract with Questar to oversee Tennessee’s annual student assessments.

“My hope as a board member is to be proactive and not reactive, especially after the testing debacle last year,” Rountree told WBIR 10News. “Even a board discussion on this topic will hopefully be beneficial.”

The state in the past year or so has struggled to roll out new tests for students.

In April, the state terminated its five-year contract with Measurement, Inc., which was used to develop TNReady tests statewide. The company’s online testing platform in February couldn’t meet the demand and the state switched to paper tests.

State education officials voted not to count TNReady test scores against elementary and middle school students in May.

The state in July then picked Questar to oversee the assessments.

RELATED: Teachers talk with TN's new standardized testing vendor

Rountree’s resolution notes that “there are documented errors on the part of Questar” to administer similar tests in New York and Mississippi, and that Knox County teachers wouldn’t be involved in writing test items for the current year.

She said her proposal would be for the current school year only.

KCS interim Superintendent Buzz called the resolution “ill-advised” and “at the very least . . . premature.”

“(The) proposed resolution does not sound like a school district that is aspiring to be the best in the South or even in the state,” Thomas wrote to board members in a Sept. 23 email. “It sounds like we are making excuses. We need a good standardized test each year to tell us how we are doing compared to others across the state and the nation. We will achieve greatness not by shying away from this accountability but by welcoming it.”

Thomas also noted that he and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett have “worked hard to unite our community” behind the school system’s work and the goal to create the "best system in the South.”

“We have done this in a way that affirms both student achievement and teacher morale,” he wrote. “This resolution puts that at risk. In short, it will divide us. Once again, we could find ourselves and our community in two disputing camps. The pro-achievement folks on one side and the pro-teacher folks on the other. You and I reject that dichotomy.”

At the BOE work session Monday night, two teachers spoke in support of using the state assessment scores in teacher evaluations because it lets them know how they are doing and how to adjust their teaching methods. 

One of those teachers said during her time in the public forum that she worries students will not put enough effort into the test if they know the scores will not affect their grades. 

"We have to hold kids accountable," the teacher said. "They're not going to take a test if we don't hold them accountable."

Following the discussion at the work session, Rountree said she plans to clarify her resolution at Wednesday night's regular meeting. She said it will further say that the test scores will only be used if they are beneficial to the teacher. 

The school board plans to vote on the issue during its meeting on Wednesday.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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