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Publisher’s Position: When Down is Up and Up is Down

By Steve Hunley
The media barrage has begun and Superintendent of Schools Jim McIntyre is doing his best to spin the drop in ACT scores in Knox County.

Like a stressed circus poodle, Dr. McIntyre is spinning, jumping, and barking that the results don’t mean a thing in light of the fact the folks who run the ACT scores changed the methodology of the test scores.  McIntyre is telling us it’s not a case of apple and apples, but of apples and oranges.

Go figure.

Depending on what suits him at the moment, McIntyre is always citing some sort of data.  Of course he rarely ever discusses any data that doesn’t put the school system in the best light.  Does anyone imagine for a single moment McIntyre would have questioned the methodology had the scores gone up?

My guess is there’d be dancing in the streets had the rates gone up and McIntyre would have claimed the credit.  Of course nobody wants the blame when the news isn’t good.

It is certainly true the methodology for the ACT scores have changed; the biggest change is the ACT folks have decided to include those scores of the disabled and handicapped children.  Many of those same children have been “mainstreamed” into the classrooms, so it seems to me their scores should be included in the overall results.  One can’t have it both ways.  Frankly, had those scores been included in the past, the ACT scores previously wouldn’t have been as high as they were.

The Superintendent is always going on about changes made by the State of Tennessee; he hired 66 new employees with one-time money to serve as “coaches” to prepare veteran teachers for changes mandated by the State of Tennessee.  Young teachers are left to their own devices and can be fired for any reason and the State of Tennessee has conveniently changed the law so they don’t even have to be given a reason for their dismissal.

Evidently McIntyre wasn’t ready for this change or perhaps it wasn’t possible to manipulate the test scores of students.

At best McIntyre is saying we are exactly where we were the year before; at worst, the test scores have actually dropped.  Even Farragut High School has dropped in the caution zone. All of this is happening despite McIntyre’s constant assurance that there is some “extraordinary learning” going on in our schools.

The preparation rates certainly don’t show it and now the ACT scores don’t reflect that extraordinary learning either.

McIntyre didn’t just get to town.  He’s been demanding more and more money and we currently spend over half a billion dollars in Knox County on our schools.  Knox County has the dubious distinction of having the worst performing school in the State of Tennessee.

The Pied Piper can change the tune as needed, but it won’t alter reality.

The rubber stamp Board of Education will yet again circle the wagons to protect their darling superintendent and bend over backwards to try and explain the ACT scores going down means nothing really.  Of course the same Board and Superintendent like to brag when they go up and certainly don’t question the methodology then.

It also raises the record of this Board of Education and five of them have to run again next year.  That same record may well be a difficult one to bear when facing the voters.  They have enabled the Superintendent who they pay more than Vice President of the United States.  They have accepted the blame for security cameras that provided no security.  They have eagerly supported a bloated bureaucracy and asked for increases in the property and sales taxes.  They have presided over failing schools, abysmal preparation rates and dropping ACT scores.

They can cry, wriggle and squall, but that is their record and it will be surprising if some challengers don’t give them the credit of that record.

It’s just another case of down is up and up is down.

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