The Chalk Board: May 18, 2015

By Sally Absher

Knox County Schools Teacher Survey Results.

In a press release dated May 14, KCS crows about the results of this year’s “pencil and paper” teacher survey, with the headline, “Teacher Survey shows significant improvement.” You can access the survey, and comments at knoxschools.org.

It also shows that 324 fewer teachers took the survey this year than last year, but why let statistics get in the way of your message?

Overall, teachers think their school is a good place to work and learn (84.2%), which is an increase from last year (77.9%). More teachers presumably think the District is a good place to work and learn (53% in 2015 v 27.8% in 2013. Seriously?

There were also improvements in teacher perceptions about Professional Learning Communities, their ability to make sound professional decisions about instruction, recognition as educational experts in their school, and teacher autonomy to make decisions about instructional delivery.

“I was pleased to see that our efforts to support, listen to and value our educators appear to be having a positive impact,” said Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of the Knox County Schools. “Teacher feedback is critically important so that we can continue to develop a positive culture of excellence in our school system, and continue to provide an outstanding education to our children.”

This is interesting, considering the teacher comments. 666 of the 3171 teachers who completed the survey (21%) left comments.  But those comments tell a different story. From ways to cut waste and reduce spending, to numerous requests to fire Dr. McIntyre and the Broad Residents, it is clear that all is not roses in the Knox County School system.

As is the pattern with recent surveys emanating from Central Office, there is a large amount of skepticism, both in the integrity of the survey, and in the results. Several respondents added comments to clarify that their response was for “my school” but not the District.

The comment section of the Survey is certainly more entertaining, and probably much more honest and useful, than the “agree strongly, agree, neutral, disagree, disagree strongly” part of the survey.

Perhaps 20 people should show up at the Monday May 18 BOE meeting, and reach read two or three pages of the comments in Public Forum. Both the Teacher Survey and Year Round School (Balanced Calendar) Survey are on the agenda.

 Honoring mediocrity.

Public schools aren’t the only ones engaged in the “race to the bottom” as far as academic excellence. Apparently, it is no longer acceptable to strive for and be honored for the highest academic achievement at one local Knoxville private school.

From the KCHS Handbook: Beginning with the Class of 2016, the honors of Valedictorian and Salutatorian will be replaced by honoring the top 5% of the class. Honors roll will be based on unweighted GPAs, which removes much of the incentive for students to take more challenging honors and AP courses.

At this year’s Honor Ceremony, students who won an award in Driver’s Ed and Weightlifting were asked to come up to the stage and receive a certificate and recognition. But the top five academic achievers’ names were simply read.

KCHS will have a signing day for students who receive a “full-ride” to college. This includes students who plan to attend non-selective community colleges under the Tennessee Promise program, also known as “Free 13th and 14th grade.” But, students who have been admitted into highly competitive/top tier schools, and receive no aid, are not recognized.

Tate’s launches Middle School for 2015-2016 School Year.

Tate’s School has been providing Knoxville families with an exceptional education experience for students from preschool through the 5th grade since 1968. To mark the school’s 47th year, Tate’s School formally announced last week that they will be expanding into the middle school grades in the fall of 2015.

Tate’s School’s executive management team has adopted a managed growth strategy that will offer two sixth grade classes for the 2015/16 school year and expand one grade each consecutive year until seventh and eighth grades have been added by 2017. Small class sizes of 16 students each will allow for personalized instruction that is an integral part of Tate’s School’s culture.

Middle school instruction will be based on standards for college preparatory level work and students will be encouraged to enroll in advanced and Pre-AP courses. Tate’s School was the first elementary school in the state of Tennessee to become a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) campus. Spanish and Latin instruction along with classes in theater, music, and visual arts will also be offered.

Later this year, students across Tate’s campus will be able to appreciate the new Athletic and Dining Hall scheduled to open in January 2016. This new facility will offer an exciting opportunity to expand sports training, creative arts programs and includes a dining area where homemade, nutritionally-sound meals will be prepared daily.

For more information, contact Tracey Van Hook at 865.693.3021 or 850.519.2488 (cell); email: traceyvanhook@comcast.net; Website: www.TatesSchool.com.

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