By Sally Absher

6th, 9th Grade Orientation August 7

On Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, 8 a.m.-noon, the Knox County Schools will hold student orientations for rising sixth and ninth graders to help transition those students into middle and high school. Orientations will be held at all middle and high schools where the students are based. Bus service will be provided.

During orientation, transitioning students will have the opportunity to become acclimated to their new school environment, meet friends and review schedules and other information while being in a small-group setting prior to the return of the entire student body.

Students officially return to the Knox County Schools on Monday, Aug. 10, which is a half-day session for students.


Superintendent’s evaluation protocol

Superintendent’s Evaluation Process Committee will present the draft Superintendent’s evaluation protocol to the School Board in August.  The committee, chaired by Patti Bounds, agreed to a final draft of the proposed evaluation protocol at their July 2 meeting, and invited McIntyre to provide feedback and suggestions last Thursday.

The evaluation protocol, developed by the committee and derived almost entirely from elements of the 2020 Strategic Plan, contains 69 separate “indicators” on which to base the Superintendent’s effectiveness.

In an attempt to mirror the evaluation rubric used for Knox County educators, it provides a much more objective, data-based structure than the previous narrative evaluation, in which BOE members evaluated the Superintendent in five general areas: Student Achievement; Strategic Planning and Execution; Effective Use of Resources; Relationships with Staff, Personnel, and BOE Members; and Family and Community Engagement.

Some of McIntyre’s comments, provided to the committee via email Thursday morning, were minor (for example, changing wording of one of the indicator metrics to more closely match the language in the strategic plan).

Others were more substantive, such as questioning the evaluation scoring scale and the lack of an evidence-based rubric. After some discussion, the committee settled on a five point scale: significantly below expectations, below expectations, meets expectations, exceeds expectations, and significantly exceeds expectations).

McIntyre’s memo to the committee specifically said, “It would seem logical that having a common vocabulary and structure shared between the Superintendent’s evaluation and that of other Knox County School educators would be advantageous.” But during the conversation on how that would be applied to his own evaluation, he expressed concerns about how the indicators would be applied and calibrated to his evaluation.

Lauren Hopson weighed in also, saying she “completely agrees” with all McIntyre’s concerns – that there is not a specific rubric for all the indicators, that there is still some subjectivity, and that there should be a place to provide evidence for a score. She added, “I would also think that those luxuries should be afforded to our teachers.”

This fall, McIntyre will be evaluated under the current narrative evaluation model. The new evaluation protocol, if approved by the BOE, will take effect for the 2015-2016 school year. It remains to be seen if McIntyre will still be here to be scrutinized under the new model.


TEAM Teachers Out of Luck on Bonuses Next Year

One of the few concessions Mayor Tim Burchett made in his MOU agreement with KCS director Jim McIntyre was a one-time $3M transfer to cover bonuses some teachers earned under the APEX strategic compensation plan in 2014-2015.

The bonuses have traditionally earned in one school year, but paid in the fall of the following year, which is in a different budget cycle. Because the funding came primarily from grants, such as Race to the Top, the accounting details weren’t an issue… until the money ran out. That’s the problem with grants – the money ALWAYS runs out.

Sandra Clark over at the Shopper News reports that “Superintendent Jim McIntyre confirmed that that performance-based pay incentives will not be offered to teachers in the upcoming school year. The only exception is for teachers and administrators in Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) schools.”

These are the teachers who must endure 4 evaluations every year, instead of the two that teachers in TEAM (Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model) schools have.  But the future of the APEX bonus program was already uncertain.

Earlier this year, McIntyre asked Rodney Russell, his “director of human capital strategy” (yes, that is his actual title) to chair a group of teachers tasked with reworking the APEX bonus formula. The School Board will discuss strategic compensation at their August 5 meeting.

Those who support APEX bonuses cite state mandates for strategic compensation. But the state leaves the details of the differentiated pay up to individual districts.

Lauren Hopson, KCEA President, explained that KCS is not required to have merit pay. “We are required to have differentiated pay. This requirement can be met by differentiating pay based on degrees and providing supplements for extra duties.” She adds, “APEX is unnecessary.”

It also doesn’t seem to have much effect on student outcomes. Andy Spears, writing at the Tennessee Education Report, compares current TCAP results and an analysis of the data over time. “Overall,” he said, “students are performing better than they were when new TCAP tests were started and standards were raised.”

But, he adds, “A similar trend could be seen in results before the change in the test in 2009. Tennessee students were steadily making gains. Teachers and schools were hitting the mark set for them by policymakers.” This was prior to the TVASS evaluation pay schemes.

He compares recent results from Putnam and Cumberland Counties, two neighboring counties with similar demographics and schools. Putnam was among the first to develop a pay scheme based on teacher evaluations and TVAAS. Cumberland County relies on the traditional teacher pay schedule.

Spears concludes, “Only a small number  of Tennessee districts have performance pay schemes — so, that alone would indicate that performance pay is not driving improved student outcomes.  Then, a preliminary comparison of two districts suggests that both performance pay and non-performance pay districts see significant (and similar) TVAAS gains.

Reform may be working — but it may not be the reform the reformers want to push.”


SPEAK gears up for 2015-2016 School Year

Join SPEAK Saturday, August 1, for a strategic planning session to map out our activities for the 2015-2016 school year, with assistance from the Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM).

Topics will include addressing teacher nonrenewals, excessive standardized testing, and charter schools. The session will occur from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Communications Workers of America Local 3805 Hall at 1415 Elm Street. Please RSVP, if possible, to Travis Donoho at