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By Steve Hunley

“There’s some extraordinary learning going on out there!”

That has been a constant cry from Knox County superintendent of schools James McIntyre during his tenure in office.  Last week some 12 superintendents issued a press release they would be meeting at Pellissippi State, yet the meeting was abruptly cancelled just a couple of hours before it was due to occur.  Evidently McIntyre thought better of it, as he needed to make himself available to the press to put the best face on the news the State of Tennessee had publicly released the results of the TCAP scores.  The news was not especially good.

And McIntyre certainly did his best to put his spin on the results.  In fact, McIntyre did so much spinning Rapunzel would have been envious.  McIntyre announced the scores from Knox County were “flat”, but if one dug just a bit deeper, there was plenty to be disturbed about.  For instance, third grade reading proficiency declined in Knox County by 9.3%, almost double the average in the state, which was 5%.  That in spite of the fact Mayor Tim Burchett scraped together some extra $3 million – – – of your money – – – specifically to boost reading abilities in third graders.

McIntyre – – – who has imposed numerous standardized assessments on Knox County students far and above what is mandated by the State of Tennessee – – – is now saying the TCAP test isn’t a good indicator, since it doesn’t account for the “rigorous” program set forth by Common Core. He has no problems with using the SAT-10 test for grades K-2, and that is not aligned to Common Core, either.

Dr. McIntyre claims that Knox County Schools are projected to earn an overall TVAAS score of Level 5 (the highest level attainable). Which is strange, because the same TCAP data that McIntyre claims will earn the system a Level 5 TVAAS score is driving teachers’ TVAAS scores down, creating “ineffective” teachers. The use of TVAAS scores in teacher evaluations has been the source of complaints made by hundreds of teachers over the past two years.  Many of these same teachers have been persecuted for that point of view, which certainly wasn’t shared by McIntyre.  Many of those teachers endured subtle harassment and have been treated as malcontents, incompetent and worse.  Some have been demoted or fired.

But why let a few hard cruel facts get in the way of your agenda? He has to explain those individual TCAP scores. McIntyre’s entire administration has been data driven and in each instance where Knox County receives some bad news about the result, McIntyre attempts to shield himself by questioning the validity of the test.

Someone once said, “Substance is enduring, form is ephemeral” and that pretty much sums up the entirety of McIntyre’s administration.  Put very simply, lots of grand talk, use of many superlative adjectives, a ton of money spent, and little to show for it.

McIntyre never worked a day as a superintendent before coming to Knoxville and has about as much experience in the classroom as the average intern.  He reminds me of the “Wizard Oz.”  McIntyre has concealed himself behind a curtain, amplified his voice and carried on about the “great and powerful Oz.”  That was enough to impress some easily deluded munchkins who went skipping down the yellow brick road holding hands and singing.

The school system and some Board members have worked overtime to humanize McIntyre, as apparently they concluded the public was noticing he has been running our schools with less heart than the Tin Man.  Nor does he have any more courage than the Cowardly Lion in standing up to the state about thos tests, rules or regulations he supposedly feels are hurtful, although McIntyre is a past master of noticing imperfections after the fact.  Had McIntyre merely listened to the teachers in the classroom in the first place, perhaps he would have been better prepared for the school. All is not well in Oz.

It’s yet another failure for McIntyre and even the slowest of munchkins has to realize McIntyre is strong on adjectives and glittering generalities and poor on substance.  McIntyre’s entire career until coming to Knoxville has been as a bureaucrat and it is as a bureaucrat that he truly shines.  That is if one considers bloating the school bureaucracy an accomplishment or feat of some note.

McIntyre’s “cure” to fix the problem is entirely predictable: he will say we need to double down and it will be expensive.  He will chide Mayor Burchett and the County Commission for their failure to raise taxes and provide the schools with more money.  we currently spend more than half a billion dollars annually in Knox County on education.  Even the brainless Scarecrow should realize more and more money isn’t going to fix this problem.

Throughout this fiasco of declining scores McIntyre has shown less gumption than Toto.  His rubber stamp Board of Education has begun melting like the Wicked Witch of the West and the time is coming closer when McIntyre will have to put on the ruby slippers, click his heels and go back to Boston.