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Knox County Schools are the focus of a new lawsuit based on the use of test scores to evaluate and reward teachers.

The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) filed the suit against the Knox County Board of Education this week. According to a press release, they blame the system "for its unconstitutional use of Tennessee Value Added Assessment System (TVAAS) estimates in high-stakes bonus decisions."

"Unfortunately, one of our concerns with the high-stakes use of TVAAS estimates has come to fruition," said Gera Summerford, TEA president. "It is unacceptable for any teacher to be punished financially or otherwise as a result of unreliable, flawed statistical estimates that can vary years after a student was in that teacher's classroom."

TEA claims that Knox County teacher Lisa Trout was unfairly denied the district's APEX bonus after being misled about how her TVAAS estimate would be calculated.

"After being told she would receive the system-wide TVAAS estimate because of her position in an alternative school, a guidance counselor incorrectly claimed 10 of Ms. Trout's students for her TVAAS score without her knowledge," said Richard Colbert, TEA general counsel. "As a result, Ms. Trout ultimately received a lower TVAAS estimate than she should have and was denied the APEX bonus she had earned."

TEA says 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.

"Ms. Trout's situation illustrates the fundamental problem with using statistical estimates for high-stakes decisions that affect teacher pay," Colbert said. "Her case raises great concerns over the constitutionality of such practices."

TEA believes this is the first of many similar suits across the state.

Knox County Schools does not comment on pending litigation.

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