Dr. McIntyre went to Washington D.C. this week to participate in a U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions roundtable discussion on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Before he left, he invited Board of Education members to share their thoughts and concerns with him. At least one board member, Amber Rountree (District 9) did just that. Below is the text of her memo to Dr. McIntyre. She also sent a copy to Senator Lamar Alexander, head of the Senate Education Committee.
January 31, 2015
Dr. James P. McIntyre, Jr., Superintendent (VIA E-Mail)
Knox County Schools
912 S. Gay St.
Knoxville, TN 37902
Thank you for the opportunity to give input on your upcoming testimony regarding the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (“NCLB”). As you stated in your email to the Board, you have been bestowed an honor to represent our students, our staff and the great state of Tennessee. I know you will share the wonderful innovation happening in Knox County Schools, but I implore you to provide a realistic picture of how NCLB (and its waiver) has impacted our schools. I hope as you prepare your testimony you find courage to speak hard truths about the current state of our schools, including the following points:
More accountability≠better education. While we need a way to measure student progress, we must discontinue high-stakes testing that is not developmentally appropriate. Punishing students, teachers and schools for results of these tests is simply unethical, especially while companies like Pearson profit from this punishment.
Restore local control. Top down mandates from the federal government via NCLB have not led to a better outcome for students. In fact, in our own district the achievement gap is widening. Return the decision making to the hands of our state and local boards of education, along with controls to ensure punitive high-stakes testing does not continue.
Rethink the “Teacher Incentive Fund.” Would you pay a firefighter based on the number of fires they successfully extinguished? Merit pay does not directly correlate to increased student performance. A wiser choice would be to use the funding for smaller teacher-student ratios, which directly improve student outcomes.
Public dollars, public schools. Vouchers and charters are a path to privatize public education. When President Johnson signed ESEA into law, his intent was to help public schools succeed, not see those dollars funneled into private ventures which are not held to the same rigorous standards as public schools.
I concur with President Johnson’s remark that “there is no higher ground than a schoolroom or a more hopeful place than a classroom.” The brightness of hope for our students and teachers has dimmed under the oppressive mandates of NCLB. You’ve been given a gift to help restore that hope; my wish is that you use it wisely.
Yours in education,
District 9 Representative
cc: Senator Lamar Alexander (via email)