By Sally Absher

This is Why I Teach.

(By Farragut Middle School science teacher Mark Taylor. Reprinted by permission)…

“I need to share something that happened to me tonight. I assure you I don’t mean to be self-serving in any way but this is how my night went (please bear with me):

I left school and went to watch the first half of our school’s soccer game, from there I went to watch our student’s compete in the Knox County Track Finals, I left early to make it in time to watch our 8th grade chorus concert.

As I was walking into the auditorium a student who I do not have in class but who I have had the opportunity, through the course of this year, to come to know, approached me. We said “hi” and then he looked at me confused and said, “your daughter is not in chorus, why are you here?” I told him, “I am here to watch you and your classmates perform.”

He then stared at me for several seconds and finally said, “I have never had anyone say that to me before.” I told him, “well that is why I am here.”

I assure you I came very close to not going to the concert, the track meet or the soccer game. I really wanted to go home and do nothing but rest all evening. But here’s the thing: that is why I teach. It is not about TCAP scores, field tests, TVAAS, APEX bonuses, TEAM rubrics, evaluations, leadership points, or even the exuberant salary. It is about the kids, the relationships and the potential to have a positive influence and to make a difference in the life of another human being.

That is why I became a teacher and I am forever grateful to this student for reminding me of that. This is why we all became teachers. This is the single most important responsibility any teacher will ever have. As long as teachers remember this and let nothing come between the positive influence we can have on our students life’s we are succeeding, regardless of whether KCS recognizes it or not.

As long as I know I am doing what is best for my students KCS can label me ineffective or whatever they want. What is most important is not what I make of myself, but what I make of those around me.”

 Is Your School System Infected by the Broad Academy Virus?

From the April 2011 article by, the following are symptoms of a school district under the leadership and control of graduates of the Broad Academy. Dr. McIntyre is a Broad graduate. KCS has had a total of 4 Broad Residents since 2012; two are currently still with us. Does any of this sound familiar?

Repetition of the phrases “achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements.

Repeated use of the terms “excellence,” “best practices,” and “data-driven decisions.”

The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms.

Power is centralized

Decision-making is top down.

Local autonomy of schools is taken away.

Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will.

Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent.

Ballooning of the central office at the same time superintendent makes painful cuts to schools and classrooms.

Sudden increase in number of paid outside consultants.

Increase in the number of public schools turned into privately-run charters.

Teachers are no longer referred to as people, educators, colleagues, staff, or even “human resources,” but as “human capital.”

Teachers are no longer expected to be creative, passionate, inspired, but merely “effective.”

Superintendent lays off teachers for questionable reasons (e.g., Mr. Suttles).

Excessive amounts of testing introduced and imposed on your kids.

The district hires a number of “Broad Residents” at about $90,000 apiece, who are placed in strategically important positions like overseeing the test that is used to evaluate teachers or school report cards.

The Broad Residents in turn provide – or fabricate – data that support the superintendent’s education reform agenda (factual accuracy not required).

Strange data appears that seems to contradict what you know (gut level) to be true about your own district.

There is a strange sense of sabotage going on.

Superintendent behaves as if s/he is beyond reproach.

A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate education reforms that your superintendent supports.  Of course, none of these are genuine grassroots community organizations.

The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”