By Sally Absher

 Teacher Supply Depot Donations Sought

It may be the last thing on your kids’ mind, but Knox County teachers are starting to think about getting their classrooms ready for students – who will be back in school in less than a month. Supplies like pencils, pens, paper, calculators and notebooks add up when teaching a classroom full of students, which is why the Teacher Supply Depot was establisehd 15 years ago.

Teacher Supply Depot provides donated school supplies for teachers – new and gently used – and provides them at no cost to teachers several times a year. The items most in demand are every-day items – notebooks, pens, and pencils.

Last week, WATE 6 On Your Side hosted a Christmas in July donation drive. But you can still donate to the Teacher Supply Depot by dropping off new or gently used school supplies at 709 N. Cedar Bluff Road. Hours are 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. You can call the Depot at (865)594-1221 for more information.

Teacher Giveaway Dates for the 2015-2016 school year are August 15 and October 17, 2015 and January 23 and April 2, 2016. Teachers need to bring their school ID badge or a letter from their principal in order to be admitted during the giveaway dates.

Senate Defeats Amendment Allowing Opt Out of Standardized Tests

The passage of the Senate’s “Every Child Achieve Act (ECAA – the controversial “renewal” of No Child Left Behind) last week was a hollow victory at best, after the Senate defeated an amendment to the bill that would have allowed parents nationwide to opt out of federally-mandated state standardized tests without putting school districts at risk of federal sanctions.

The chamber voted 64 to 32 against the amendment, proposed by Utah Sen. Mike Lee amid a backlash against mandated standardized tests. “Parents, not politicians or bureaucrats, will have the final say over whether individual children take tests,” he said.

But our own Sen. Lamar Alexander — the Republican co-sponsor of the bill — spoke forcefully against the proposal, saying it would strip states of the right to decide whether to allow parents to opt out – which means that parents in some states could have more right to make decisions about their child’s education than parents in other states.

Current law requires that school districts ensure that 95 percent of children take the exams, presumably to prevent administrators from encouraging low performers to stay home on exam day. The Senate bill mandates 95 percent participation of students who are required to be tested, ostensibly allowing states to decide whether children who opt out are among those who are required to be tested.

Under the House bill, however, parents who opt their children out of tests would not be counted in the participation rate of any state, effectively removing them from the accountability system altogether. Civil rights groups opposed that provision, saying it opened a loophole to hide achievement gaps.

In either case, a parent’s right to make decisions regarding their children’s education is being superseded by the Federal Government, something to which everyone should be opposed.

The next step is a conference committee to hammer out the differences between the two bills. The saying “two wrongs don’t make a right” comes to mind.