By Sally Absher

TN Ready Testing on an Empty Stomach?

Last week local high schools began Part 1 of the New Improved TN Ready standardized end of course assessments for fall semester classes (despite it being about a month and a half from the end of the course).

The tests, which are conducted online, require every available computer or device at most schools. Scheduling the assessments to cause as little disruption as possible is a challenge. At least one local high school is conducting multiple testing sessions each day, but in doing so has pushed lunch back to the end of the testing, which is around 2 p.m.

The onslaught of standardized testing is stressful enough for students without making them take the assessments on an empty stomach. How does this promote “excellence for every child?” Parents, ask your high schooler what the testing schedule is at his or her school. You might be shocked.


TN Education Commissioner Blocks State Representative from Taking TN Ready Test

After being contacted by “hundreds” of Northwest Tennessee concerned parents as well as a Level 5 teacher about the new standards for the TN Ready standardized tests, State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) planned to take a TN Ready English and Language Arts practice exam along with 8th grade students at Hillcrest Elementary School in Troy, TN.

Holt said, “I decided I needed to go and see for myself what countless teachers and parents have asked their elected officials to take note of.” He said that the principal and numerous teachers were excited about his planned visit.

But several hours before he was scheduled to visit, he received a phone call from the TN Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen.

He said, “The commissioner insinuated that I not go through with my plans. She didn’t want to ‘make a media event’ out of this. Last I checked, the media is responsible for ensuring people are informed. Last I checked, the media is protected by the First Amendment and should never be discouraged from being present– especially given the fact that this is a public school funded by hardworking Tennessee tax-payers. The media holds government accountable.”

Shortly after McQueen’s call, Holt received a phone call from the Obion County Schools administration telling him they were not going to allow him to visit the school.

Holt said that by involving themselves in this situation, the Tennessee Department of Education has validated every fear and concern that every teacher, parent, and student in the state has about testing and standards.

Holt was also attacked by the pro-Common Core group that is funded by secret, dark money from textbook publishers known as Tennesseans for Student Success. He said, “No surprise there. You take a stand for parents/teachers and the big money comes out to silence you and the teachers/parents you are trying to give a voice to.”

Holt showed up at the school anyway.  He wasn’t allowed to test, but was offered the ability to take a practice test at the county board of education, although he said the point was to take the exam in a classroom to get the full experience and receive feedback from students, not to take the exam in a sterilized environment where “the department can control what I can and cannot see.”

Perhaps every Tennessee legislator should be required to take the 8th grade TN Ready exam.


Knox County School Coupon Book Celebration

Last Thursday Knox County Schools celebrated a successful 2015 Coupon Book Campaign. Officials announced the to-date sales totals and recognized top-selling schools and students.

Representatives from the coupon book’s presenting sponsor, U.S. Cellular were in attendance, and officials recognized the major sponsors: First Tennessee Foundation, Junk Bee Gone, Rusty Wallace Automotive and Stanley Steemer.

The 2015 campaign goal was 160,000 books sold, which would net more than $1.4 million for classroom needs across the county. So far this year KCS students sold 156,033 books, just under the 2015 goal. Since 1989, almost 4 million coupon books have been sold to raise more than $30 million for students in the Knox County Schools.

The Original Knox County Schools Coupon Book provides funds to meet school needs identified by parents, teachers and school administrators and benefits every student in the Knox County Schools. In its 27th year, the coupon book still costs only $10.00. Of this, schools keep $8.00 from each book they sell; $0.70 support schools with greater economic need, and $0.13 from each book fund the purchase of e-book subscriptions for all Knox County Schools’ libraries.

It’s not too late to pick up a Knox County Schools Coupon Book – they are now available for purchase at select retail locations, including School Box, Health and Patio, Linda’s Hallmark, Tots and Teens Optical, the Knox County Schools/PTA Clothing Center, and various branches of the Knoxville Teachers Federal Credit Union.


Mooreland Heights Elementary School Ribbon-Cutting On November 2

Mooreland Heights Elementary held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the expansion/renovation to the school and the Cole Alexander Cross Memorial Playground.

The project includes 7,500 square feet of new construction (six additional classrooms, office space, and restrooms) as well as additional parking and a reconfigured playground space.

The playground is named in memory of Cole Alexander Cross, who died from cancer at age 6 last year. He would have turned eight years old on the day of the dedication.

Cole was the best friend of Kenzie Self, a second grader who wrote a letter to Mayor Tim Burchett to get the project rolling. Kenzie read her letter to the Mayor at the ribbon cutting.

She told Mayor Burchett, “Mayors can make special days to celebrate people. Can you do this for Cole? Cole was kind, sweet, funny, and brave. I love him.”

Mayor Burchett, with the help of some donors in the community, followed through on the request.