More Tests!

From the “Dumbest Thing I’ve Heard All Day” department:

Dr. Jared Bigham is Director of College and Career Readiness at the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and a leader of the Expect More, Achieve More Coalition:
“We can’t afford to wait until students are 17 yrs old to determine if they are college & career ready.”


When should we determine whether students have reached the point we expect them to reach by age 17 or 18?  Maybe when they are in third grade?  Sure, why not?  It seems that we are headed that way, so why not just go ahead and evaluate third graders, to see whether they have reached the level of college and career readiness we expect to see from 17-18 year olds. If their teachers haven’t prepared these third graders to succeed in college – well – they are clearly not doing their jobs.

WHY, oh why, did I start writing, before I finished reading the whole article?  It was just so ridiculous, that I couldn’t wait to put my parody in print.

and then…

…I read the rest of it:

“With an assessment that matches our standards and the way students are learning in class, we could know as early as third grade if a student needs academic support to stay on track for college and career readiness.”

If that isn’t a “WTH” moment, I don’t know what is.

Today’s third graders are around 8 years old.  When they start college – ten years from now – we don’t even know what kinds of careers will be available.  At best, we are guessing.  How much more sense it would make, to educate students to be flexible, thinking, citizens.  Instead, we are setting them up for a multitude of missed opportunities.


Consider a few jobs that barely existed 10 years ago:

IOS Developer makes cool apps for your phone
Android Developer makes cool apps for my phone
Zumba Instructor you thought aerobics died – nope
Social Media Manager  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube: all founded 2003-2006
Data Scientist bringing all those test scores together
UI/UX Designer making the “user experience” pleasant on our digital devices
Big Data Architect between organizational needs, data scientists, & data engineers
Beach Body Coach distributors of BeachBody LLC products
Cloud Svcs Specialist specializing in always-available technical services
Digital Mrktg Specialist marketing an array of digital services to customers


An interesting irony:  a number of these new careers that will continue to experience huge growth as the testing frezny continues.  The data YOUR KIDS produce through inappropriate testing are inherent to their job growth.

Let that sink in.

But, what can we expect, from a site so wrapped up in test scores, that they are STILL mis-representing Tennessee’s ginormous ACT “gains.”  They even point out that “most state averages on ACT only increase 0.1 points in a year…” WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT WE GAINED, after the last two year’s losses are figured. (Remember, three-year averages are used to show growth.)

So kids, forget recess.  You’ve got calculus homework to finish.

Parents of infants and toddlers might want to order some of the items below. Everyone else is already behind.


Problems Didn't Start Yesterday

A supporter contacted me to ask that I make some of the dates in this article more clear.  While doing so, I have also added pieces of the video transcripts and made my photos from the 2011 Rally more accessible.

One thing that I cannot add, is YOUR voice – and I hope you will help, by adding  your experiences in the comments.  If you have spent years, trying to communicate these problems to our Board and/or Legislators, please add your voice.  (No full names will be published – Make one up, if you like.)  They like to claim that there is only a “small group” of 22 “disgruntled” teachers, who are trying to stir things up.  What they need to know, is that there are THOUSANDS of teachers, parents, students, and community members, who are begging to be heard.


The problems in Knox County Schools didn’t start yesterday, and they aren’t going to end tomorrow. Lots of people want you to only notice the past few months. Legislators, school boards, and district administrators want to make out teachers as spur-of-the-moment rabble-rousers, when the truth is very different. They want to convince the public to give them “time” to make changes, hoping the public will forget that we have been explaining the problems for YEARS – not months.

The Knox County Board of Education has heard from THREE different Knox County Education Association presidents. (Elected by teachers, they serve two-year terms.)  They have been hearing about problems for MORE THAN FOUR YEARS.

The Board of Education, as well as local legislators were sent numerous letters and emails from educators – and were repeatedly told that we needed to “wait and see.”

Legislators very purposefully passed these laws. Boards of Education, at the local and state level, supported them. And superintendents “testified” in front of the legislature, claiming that teachers “embraced” the testing and evaluation systems that were being put into place and asked legislators not to change a thing:

Certainly, there are some adjustments and tweaks that can be made,” said McIntyre, adding that those can be done without legislative action. “In my humble and respectful opinion, I would ask that the Legislature keep the legislation in place in its current form.

From:  “Jim McIntyre Defends New Teacher Evaluation System” by Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News Sentinel, November 2, 2011


And, two years later, in 2013, McIntyre continued to testify that the new evaluation system was fabulous:

But perhaps no other recent change has greater potential to improve the quality of education in our state than the adoption of a new teacher performance evaluation system.

From: U.S. House of Representatives Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee, Written Testimony as prepared by Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent 2/28/2013

At this same time, teachers were speaking to the Knox County Schools Board of Education.  According to the BOE, they just “didn’t know” that morale was at an all-time low, or that students were undergoing so many tests, or that the evaluation system was seriously flawed and being used punitively, rather than for improvement.  In other words, they lied.

The KCS BOE has been told about these problems since 2010.  KCEA President, Sherry Morgan, spoke every time they met during the 2011-2013 school years. All three KCEA presidents regularly contacted Board members and legislators between 2010 to today – as have numerous other teachers, parents, and community members.

Four years.

Four years of ignored data.

Four years of ignored facts.

Four years of ignoring the professional educators of Knox County and Tennessee.

Four years of supporting the superintendent’s false testimony.

And, after four years of completely ignoring teachers, parents, and students, they ask us to please, just give it some time to “work” before they make changes.

The only people they are kidding are themselves and people who have been asleep for the past four years.

If anyone believes that teachers were just too softspoken to get through to the BOE, or that the BOE just didn’t “get” that there was a problem, here are some reminders in pictures and video from March 5th, 2011:

Tennessee Education Rally – March 5, 2011


Tennessee teachers march to the Capitol, to rally against several anti-public education bills.
March 5, 2011


Kayla Montgomery, KCEA, speaking at 2:15
“When people try to get rid of a bill, ask why that bill was in place. In essence, it’s to protect somebody.”
March 5, 2011


Though this isn’t a bi-partisan speaker, the thing to remember is that this is no longer about one party or the other.  It is about fixing the MESS that has been created.

0:55  – “This is an attack on teachers; this is an attack on firemen; this is an attack on collective bargaining.  Collective bargaining – there are many entities that do collective bargaining – and you can’t forget what collective bargaining did for this country:  Collective bargaining gave us the weekends; collective bargaining gave us safety laws in the workplace; collective bargaining…not to work children like they were grown people.”

1:45 – “These folks hate public education.  They don’t care anything about public education.  They tried to dicimate it with charter schools; they tried to steal the money everywhere they can, they tried to do away with the DOE at the national level.  They do not care about education.  They never have and they never will.”

2:55 – “This is a plot that’s happening all over the country…They are doing it all over the country.”



Enough Nuance – Get to the Truth

There is some disagreement over whether the story of possible agreements between the KCS BOE and the superintendent are something over which constituents should be concerned.  Without a doubt, the story has changed in the last 24 hours. When a reporter says that we will have a more “nuanced” version of the story, I see a red flag, right there. Nuance is part of the problem. We don’t need to see the kinder, gentler version of the truth. Constituents expect the truth – however dirty it my be.  And it still looks pretty dirty to me.

It certainly feels like the “beautify” effect has fuzzed out some of the sharp edges of truth that were in the original. However, much of the “evidence” being used is pretty seriously flawed. “News” reports on those meetings focused on ensuring that BOE members weren’t out in the schools, telling principals how to run things – but those reports completely missed the thing every reporter should have noticed: Taking away every BOE member’s right to free speech.

Though not a “secret” document, it is quite secretive. I don’t see anywhere showing an actual public display of the wording of the agreements, with the exception of a linked version, under the agenda for a 2010 meeting (which is a pain to dig through, for most people).  It is not listed in any of the governing documents on their webpage, unless it is several levels down, where I haven’t found it yet.  What is quite clear, is that it was intended to be written and agreed to, all the way to how it would be “enforced” by the chair.

Whether legally binding or not, whether enforceable or not, and whether it was an “agreement,” an “understanding,” or any other words they want to toss in the mix, it is a document that has the pupose of guiding the Board, and as such, should have been clearly displayed as part of their governing documents for the past 6 years.

The kinds of things that are problematic, aren’t the same as those addressed by board members’ quotes or the KNS stories from the retreats. “Overstepping bounds” is not at all the same as not questioning the superintendent – their ONE employee.

This board has continually failed to do their due diligence – and have repeatedly shown that they are neither trustworthy, nor willing to accept responsibility for their actions – or lack of action.

As a community, it is our responsibility to do OUR due diligence in putting an end to the shenanigans, as well as the excuses.


Mike Donila’s first story is here and his second is  here

Cari Wade Gervin’s first story is here, with the “nuanced” story here

The Knox County Law Department’s opinion is here

The KNS stories that don’t quite cover the same facts are  here and here

Where Board Policies are supposed to be listed can be found here

I thought I could show the link trail to the documents in question, but it seems that the links are a little tricky to find… especially since none of the BOE agendas or minutes are linked on the site in a way that makes navigational sense.

2008 version – attached to the 2010 agenda – is here

2010 version – attached to the Law Director’s opinion – is here