By Sally Absher

In a special call meeting during the BOE work session last week, The Board of Education voted to discontinue the highly controversial K-2 standardized assessment, also known as the SAT-10, for the district’s kindergarten, first, and second graders.

A collective shout of joy went up from the county’s roughly 12,000 students in grades K-2, their families, and their teachers. The vote to discontinue this assessment reflects the culmination of over a year of parents, teachers, and students speaking out at BOE meetings.

Excessive-testing is an issue that parents and teachers are deeply concerned about for many reasons:

•             The TIME spent testing takes away from meaningful learning time.

•             The COST of these tests means cuts to other important things like staff, extra-curricular sports, music, and art.

•             The INAPPROPRIATENESS of these tests, especially for young children.  Developmentally, children younger than 3rd grade should not be subject to high stakes standardized tests.

The move comes just one week after Dr. McIntyre yielded to pressure and deemed that he would end the assessment for kindergarten, but wanted to keep it for first and second grade.

Naturally, Dr. McIntyre was disappointed. He isn’t used to not getting his way with the board of education.

“I’m disappointed in the vote of the board,” McIntyre said. “I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our students of our school system or our community, quite frankly, but I will certainly abide by the vote of the board of education.”

The K-2 Assessment is not required by the state. Among others, the highly acclaimed Oak Ridge and Alcoa school districts do not use the SAT-10, or any K-2 assessment.

McIntyre said he thought that the K-2 assessment provided good information for educators to measure how students are doing in the classroom. “We use that information to make good instructional decisions and good educational decisions, and I think this vote leaves us without that information.”

But many educators disagree, saying that a 4 day test given at the end of the year does not provide them with any better information, or ability to help struggling children, than the RTI2 universal screeners such as the STAR and AIMSweb assessments. And those screening assessments give immediate real-time feedback allowing teachers to alter a student’s instruction during the year.

Ending this assessment for the county’s grade K-2 students was one of the campaign promises made by BOE member Amber Rountree. She helped proctor the test before she resigned from her job as an elementary school librarian in order to serve on the board.

So did former kindergarten teacher Patti Bounds, and school social worker Terry Hill. All three have been outspoken about the inappropriateness of this level of standardized test for children younger than 8 years old.

Research shows that standardized test results are highly unreliable for children in this age group. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Child, the odds that a test at the kindergarten level will give inaccurate results are about 50/50 — the same odds as flipping a coin.

Relying on standardized tests to make important decisions about a young child’s education violates professional standards and National Academy of Sciences recommendations.

And, academic pressure in kindergarten has not produced better results. On the contrary, experts believe it contributes to failure, retention, and behavior problems. (Sources: Alliance for Childhood, NAEYC).

But the vote did not come without a struggle. McIntyre loyalists Karen Carson, Doug Harris, and Gloria Deathridge attempted to defend continuing the test. (Lynne Fugate was out of town).

Deathridge said that the board has delegated curriculum to the superintendent and she “didn’t want to set a precedent moving forward.”

Aside from the fact that the issue was assessments and not curriculum, the local board of education does have jurisdiction over both curriculum and assessments. The fact that previous boards gave that authority to the superintendent years ago does not make it right.

Harris and Carson said they need the “accountability” the SAT-10 test affords. But neither has been held accountable to our students and teachers for their testing policies. They have both failed to do their research on SAT-10 and its appropriate uses and misuses. Harris and Carson defend the broad misuse of standardized tests as if they are lobbyists for Pearson and the testing companies.

Harris claimed he has heard “no complaints from parents” about the SAT-10 test, and said, “What we’re getting ready to do is roll back education reform.” Well hallelujah for that. Testing under the guise of “education reform” hurts our children’s teachers, and leads to the takeover of public schools by private corporations soaking up your public tax dollars.

KCS Chief Accountability Officer Nakia Towns insisted that the SAT-10 gives the schools and the district “summative, systemic data.” In fact, data was mentioned a lot during the meeting. At one point she compared the STAR screener to “a cholesterol check” and the SAT-10 to a “full physical.” How many of your six-year olds go to the pediatrician for a full physical? Most kids get a check-up.

And Carson, who is not known as a stalwart advocate for teachers, expressed concern that not having the SAT-10 input into their TVAAS scores would affect teacher evaluations. This is laughable.

Rountree stood her ground, and would not be deterred from her motion to “discontinue any system-wide testing of kindergarten, first or second grade students, for the purpose of student or teacher evaluation that is not required under state law.” She insisted, “It’s really not about the data. It’s about what is best for our kids.”

At the conclusion of the special call meeting, the board voted 6-2 to discontinue the K-2 assessment. Rountree, Hill, Bounds, J. Fugate, and McMillan voted yes.


Who was the sixth? Why that was Mr. Doug Harris. Parent Jennifer Nagel said that at the conclusion of the meeting, she thanked Harris for his vote to end the SAT-10. He told her that he only voted yes so that he could bring it up again.

Something that Nakia Towns, who we just learned is on her way over to Nashville to spread the Broad Academy virus across the state, is hoping for.

Last Thursday, KCS teachers at some schools received emails urging them to voice concerns over the loss of SAT-10 because of a possible drop in their growth (TVAAS) score, and the loss of APEX pay. Talk about intimidation and bullying! The APEX money is all gone, by the way.

It shows just how little the administration actually knows about the art of teaching.

Teachers (and parents) need to think carefully about where and who this is coming from – ultimately people with little to no classroom experience who have not taken teachers’ concerns seriously. But whatever ultimately happens, remember, you have the RIGHT to REFUSE the test!