By Sally Absher

Despite the unanimous approval of Buzz Thomas as interim Superintendent, several other agenda items were less successful. Once again, Board members Patti Bounds and Amber Rountree were leaders in advocating for students and teachers in Knox County.

On the agenda was a proposal for a contract for KCS to participate in the National Council on Teacher Quality’s new initiative “Great Districts for Great Teachers.” Fortunately, Board member Patti Bounds researched this organization, and revealed that among supporters of Great Districts for Great Teachers are a number of former Superintendents, all of whom have been fired or left under pressure for poor performance. Many are graduates of the infamous Broad Superintendent Academy.

Among those listed are John Deasy, LA Unified School District, known for his failed effort to provide iPads to all students that was such a fiasco, the FBI investigated; Peter Gorman, Charlotte Mecklenburg, responsible for school closings and teacher layoffs; Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Schools, accused of inflating test scores, deriding and marginalizing teachers, and closing many large “failing” schools – he is also one of the biggest supporters of education reform and charter schools. Many of these folks have been involved in scandals, fraud, and questionable business ventures after leaving their districts.

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation created NCTQ in 2000 as a new entity “to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the education schools.” In 2001, Secretary of Education Rod Paige (McIntyre’s “mentor”) gave NCTQ a grant of $5M to start a national teacher certification program (American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence), which has since become an online teacher preparation program, allowing someone to become a teacher for $1,995.

Bounds asked, “What do we have to gain from their approval and designation? Are we that desperate for a label or an honor? Does this really impact the children of Knox County?”

Lauren Hopson agreed, saying, “Do we need an endorsement as a great school district from this list of people? If I was a teacher looking for a great district in which to teach and I saw a school district praised by this group of people, I would run screaming as fast as I could.”

Thanks to the diligent research of Mrs. Bounds, the contract failed to even receive a motion to approve at Wednesday’s meeting.

Unfortunately, also failing in a 5-4 vote was a resolution brought by Amber Rountree to delay the TNReady assessment for grades 3 to 8 until test providers can develop material that is developmentally appropriate for young children. She cited the current mandated test allotment of 11 hours of testing -more than the ACT and SAT (3 hours), LSAT (3 hours), GRE (4 hours), the MCAT (6 hours).

Even high school students struggle with the amount of testing, as Student Rep. Sydney Gabrielson shared with the board. “It’s exhausting. As a freshman, I took a 3 hour test in the morning and another 3 hour test that afternoon…“

But Chairman Doug Harris said he didn’t think he could support the resolution, adding “I think it’s too vague… and I don’t want to delay the assessment. As a parent, I’ve got to have to have that assessment, period. I can’t rely on school grades. I want an assessment.”

Harris said that an ACT score of 28 was necessary for admission to UT’s Engineering program. Gabrielson countered that schools including Georgetown, Wake Forest, and Furman no longer require standardized tests. Harris dismissed her, saying, “I wouldn’t call 3 a trend, but I see your point, there are a few outliers out there, but…”

Perhaps Mr. Harris should consult, which lists over 850 colleges and universities that no longer require the SAT or ACT for admission. Why? They have found these tests give little indication of a student’s success in school.