School board blasts state BOE

Sandra ClarkFeature, Gossip and Lies

The Knox County school board is ready to blow, with a solid majority asking Superintendent Bob Thomas to draft a “strongly-worded letter” to the state Department of Education about recent problems with pre-K and kindergarten teacher portfolio evaluations.

Board chair Patti Bounds said Wednesday there’s no way to overstate her personal anger at the state’s decision to lay blame for its inability to score some portfolios on the teachers rather than taking ownership of the blame. Bounds said teachers who received a “one” for an unscored portfolio should not have to file a grievance to have that overturned.

Mike McMillan was blunt. “Let’s be honest. The state Department of Education is incompetent and there’s plenty of (incompetence) to go around.” Why, he asked, did the state attach a “one” to items it could not score? “Why not just throw it out?”

Teacher evaluations range from one to five, with the mid-point three meaning a teacher meets expectations.

Susan Horn asked if all the “one” scores were for the same section of the portfolios. “No,” said supervisor and former principal Darlene Miller. “I could not determine a pattern.”

Amber Rountree had the discussion item added to the Aug. 1 workshop agenda.

Thomas said the state sponsored a webinar on Tuesday to explain what went wrong. “There was no computer glitch or error,” he said. Teachers were asked to submit four separate collections of student work at different times in the school year to show student growth. “Some teachers mismatched the work with the standards (being evaluated), he said.

Miller said other teachers apparently used different students at different points in the year, making it impossible to measure student growth.

Teachers have argued that the state’s portfolio instructions were unclear, developmentally inappropriate and very time-consuming.

Thomas said 80 percent of pre-K and kindergarten teachers statewide scored a 3, 4 or 5 on their portfolio, which was graded first by a peer evaluator and then by “an expert evaluator.” He said 278 pre-K teachers from Knox County were evaluated and 75 percent of them got a 4 or a 5, which means they exceeded expectations.

Roundtree was also displeased. “We’re putting the burden of mismatches back on the teachers. … forcing teachers to jump through flaming hoops.”

Tony Norman called the state Board of Education an abject failure in measuring student outcomes and in measuring teacher effectiveness. “The rubrics are flawed; the standards don’t match. This is pseudo-science gobbledygook. It doesn’t work and it drives teachers crazy.”

We’re looking forward to reading Thomas’ letter.

  • The school board will meet Sept 5 at 4 p.m. to reorganize – elect a chair and vice chair; the board will meet on Sept. 12, Oct. 17 and Nov. 14. Agendas are posted online prior to meetings.
  • So long to Ted Hatfield, defeated in Thursday’s election to the Republican State Executive Committee from District 6. Ted came to Halls to work for Regal. He and wife Carla are a class act and Ted’s worked his tail off in an unpaid job.
  • Congrats to the winners and others in Thursday’s election. Winning is exhilarating; losing is tough; and life goes on.

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