By Sally Absher

Waiver Granted for TNReady Test Scores

Last week Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen announced that in light of difficulties with the MIST platform for the online TNReady test, they are proposing that TNReady data not be included in this year’s teacher evaluations.

Knox County Board of Education helped pave the way for this decision, having made the request asking for the exclusion of this year’s TNReady test data from teacher evaluations by way or resolution in December. School boards from Metro Nashville, Williamson, and Sumner Counties passed similar resolutions.

Gov. Haslam’s press release states that he will seek additional flexibility for teachers as the state continues its transition to the TNReady student assessment.

Under the proposal, teachers would have the choice to include or not to include student results from the 2015-2016 TNReady assessment in his or her evaluation score, which typically consists of multiple years of data. The proposal keeps student learning accountability as factors in an educator’s evaluation while giving teachers the option to include this year’s results if the results benefit them.

Teacher evaluations have three main components: qualitative data (including principal observations) that counts for at least half of an educator’s evaluation; a student achievement measure that the teacher chooses; and a student growth score, typically comprising 35 percent of the overall evaluation.

“Providing teachers with the flexibility to exclude first-year TNReady data from their growth score over the course of this transition will both directly address many concerns we have heard and strengthen our partnership with educators while we move forward with a new assessment,” Commissioner McQueen said. “Regardless of the test medium, TNReady will measure skills that the real world will require of our students.”

The governor will work with the General Assembly on specific language and a plan to move the proposal through the legislative process. The state has already granted waivers for test scores to not be included in student grades this year.

But as Andy Spears at TN Education Report noted, there are still validity problems with an evaluation system that includes both multiple choice (TCAP) to constructed responses (TNReady). Add a third variable – comparing data from a paper and pencil TNReady test this year to an online assessment in 2016-2017, and the validity problems multiply.


School Board Selects Terry Hill to Lead Interim Superintendent Search

During a special called meeting prior to last weeks’ February mid-month workshop, the School Board defined the process and schedule for the search. Lynn Fugate made a motion for BOE member Terry Hill to lead the process.

Hill accepted the challenge, saying, “If the board chooses to have one person and I’m that person, I’d be happy to serve in that capacity,” but added, “My feelings will not be one bit hurt of the Board wants to go in another direction.” She was approved unanimously.

The Board agreed to accept names of potential candidates for consideration through March 7.  Hill will conduct interviews through March, and will then make a recommendation for the Board to consider at the April 4 work session, and vote on April 6.

The Board also discussed preferred qualifications for the interim position, with several Board members saying they thought familiarity with the district’s schools and leadership teams, particularly principals, was important.

At the top of Amber Rountree’s list was “background in education – preferably with teaching experience in K-12.” She included fiscal experience and excellent communication skills as qualities she would like to see.

Mike McMillan asked if previous administrative experience was a requirement. Fugate said she didn’t want to set criteria that might eliminate good people otherwise, but that administrative experience could be “preferable but not required.”

Tracie Sanger said familiarity with the budget, the staff, the schools, and a “good relationship with the mayor” are important to “help us continue to move forward.”

Anyone wishing to make a nomination for the interim position may contact the Board Executive Assistant at 865-594-1630.


Initial Projections for 2016-2017 KCS Budget

Chris Caldwell, Director of Finance for Knox County, presented early projections for the FY 2017 KCS budget at the February Board’s mid-month workshop.  Caldwell gave a conservative estimate of $451M, which represents an increase of about 3%.

The KCS budget represents a combination of sales tax, property tax, and BEP funding. Caldwell said sales tax revenues are up about $5M , to a total of $143M, and property tax receipts also show an increase this year of about $1.6M, to $96.8M. The state’s initial estimate for Knox County BEP funding is $13.2M, but at this time his department is using a more conservative figure of $11.54M.

BEP funding is often subject to variations from the initial projections. “We’ll get our first estimate from the state in April, then we’ll get another one in May, one in June, one in July, and our final one in August,” said Caldwell.

Dr. McIntyre presented the preliminary FY 2017 Capital Improvement Plan. The plan includes physical plant upgrades; roofs and HVAC upgrades; foundation stabilization; BEP growth (modular classrooms); security upgrades; accessibility; continuing projects for additions and renovations at Pond Gap Elementary School;  Hardin Valley and Gibbs Middle Schools; and significant additions and renovations to Powell High School.

The proposed FY 2017 Capital Improvement Plan budget is approximately $62,250,000, of which $49,000,000 is projected for construction of the new Hardin Valley and Gibbs Middle Schools. In addition, the County will contribute $9,000,000 towards the Gibbs Middle School project, per the MOU passed last year.