Dr. Jim McIntyre and the Knox County School Board spent Monday night's work session discussing a list of recommendations that answer the changes requested by Knox County teachers.
The meeting started with three representatives from the newly-formed teacher working group. Those teachers explained their meeting goals, and offered their own list of recommendations.
"I can truly say that in the space of the three meetings that we have had – the concerns of the teachers and the principals on the committee have been listened to and have been carefully considered," said Susan Sherman, who identified herself as a librarian at Hardin Valley. "The conversations have been very honest, and we've not been told so far that anything is off limits in these meetings."
The speakers said changes to assessments and evaluations were their top concern. On assessments, Vine Middle Magnet employee Jessica McDonald recommended only testing what's necessary.
"One thing we'd like to recommend as a group is that-- [conduct] as many assessments can be eliminated or be made available by teacher choice to the professionals in our district," she said. "Use the data you can get and use it in a meaningful way, instead of being overcome with assessments and the data that comes with it."
McIntyre followed that presentation with his own list, focusing on potential changes in three areas:
- Time, feedback and support
Teachers have argued testing is excessive, and asked that any unnecessary assessments – those not required by the state – become optional. McIntyre recommended changes to three different assessments, offering to decline to participate in the PARCC Field Test and the optional Writing Assessments for some grades this spring. He recommends offering teachers at the PLC level to choose if they want to conduct the Discovery Education Assessments.
In the teacher survey, many educators argued about the extra stress that accompanies un-announced observations. McIntyre proposed giving teachers a choice, starting next school year, about those observations. Professionally licensed teachers could choose between two unannounced visits, or one announced and one unannounced. Teachers in TEAM schools who earned a Level 5 summative evaluation score could choose between the traditional model, or one unannounced visit and two "walk-throughs."
This spring semester only, McIntyre proposed giving teachers a one-month window of time in which their unannounced observation would occur.
Teacher time, feedback, and support
In their criticisms of the district, teachers routinely argued for more planning time and more support from administrators. IN response, McIntyre offered the following changes
- Dedicating half of February 17th's planning day to teacher planning time in their classrooms
- No longer administering the TRIPOD student perception survey in primary grades this spring. Grades 3 -12 would still complete the survey this spring
- Enhancing quality and frequency of professional development, using the teacher evaluation rubric as an indication guideline
- Clarifying guidance on PLCs, and taking a different approach to Conferences of Concerns for performance reasons in the future
- Keeping the teachers Working Group connected through the end of the school year, to act as an advisory committee to the superintendent on certain issues
"We've had lots of conversations with teachers, with principals about these action steps," Dr. McIntyre said after the meeting. "We didn't hear any significant objections about these action steps from our school board. In fact I think we heard a lot of positive reinforcement about these action steps so we're going to go ahead and execute them."