Knox County teachers voice opposition to new evaluations

Knox County teachers voice opposition to new evaluations

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A large group of teachers packed Wednesday night's school board meeting in Knox County. A large group of teachers packed Wednesday night's school board meeting in Knox County.
"There are a lot of teachers that I've talked to who say they appreciate the feedback we're getting. We appreciate the conversation," said Dr. Jim McIntyre. "There are a lot of teachers that I've talked to who say they appreciate the feedback we're getting. We appreciate the conversation," said Dr. Jim McIntyre.
For more than two hours, teachers lined up to voice their opposition to policies including the teacher evaluations and excessive student testing. For more than two hours, teachers lined up to voice their opposition to policies including the teacher evaluations and excessive student testing.
Farragut High School senior Ethan Young also spoke during the meeting and told the school board the district is wrongfully focusing on the data instead of the impact of the teachers on students. Farragut High School senior Ethan Young also spoke during the meeting and told the school board the district is wrongfully focusing on the data instead of the impact of the teachers on students.
"I'm just so excited that so many teachers and turned out and so many people said how they feel and that our side is getting heard," said State Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is also a teacher. "I'm just so excited that so many teachers and turned out and so many people said how they feel and that our side is getting heard," said State Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is also a teacher.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A group of Knox County school teachers voiced their frustrations about evaluation and testing policies during Wednesday night's school board meeting.

Audience members filled every seat, with some lining up against the wall and others viewing the meeting from the second floor balcony.

Teachers said they wanted to voice their opposition to the new statewide teacher and principal evaluations that started during the 2011-2012 school year. As part of the terms, all certified educators are given yearly evaluations.

"Prior to that, teachers were evaluated twice every ten years, so it was very infrequent and it was based on a single visit to the classroom," said Director of Schools Dr. Jim McIntyre.

Some teachers gave emotional pleas to the school board to change its policies, particularly concerning the teacher evaluations.

"The message has always been that we're not enough; who we are is not enough; what we do is not enough," Hardin Valley Elementary School teacher Maureen Myers said as she held back tears.

For more than two hours, teachers lined up to voice their opposition to the evaluations as well as what they say is excessive student testing.

"You are robbing people of their dignity," Norwood Elementary School teacher Don Sage said.

A sea of red covered the main assembly room in a sign of solidarity for the teachers.

"I'm just so excited that so many teachers and turned out and so many people said how they feel and that our side is getting heard," State Rep. Gloria Johnson said.

Farragut High School senior Ethan Young also spoke during the meeting and told the school board the district is wrongfully focusing on the data instead of the impact of the teachers on students.

"Most importantly, the standards illustrate a mistrust of teachers, something I believe this county has already felt for a while," Young said.

Some teachers criticized the school district's administration, saying the central office often doesn't respond to teacher and parent inquiries. It's a claim McIntyre said isn't reflective of the district.

"We are responsive and we do respond to questions and inquiries and concerns and if there are specific instances where we're not doing that, then we'll certainly follow up on those," McIntyre said.

All teachers with professional licenses are observed four times a year, with at least half of them unannounced. Apprentice teachers get six observations a year, also with half unannounced.

Dr. McIntyre says many teachers prefer the new rating system.

"There are a lot of teachers that I've talked to who say they appreciate the feedback we're getting. We appreciate the conversation," he said.

However, the group of teachers addressing the board Wednesday night said they're looking for change.

"The things that are foremost in the minds of teachers right now are the evaluations, of course, and the hold those evaluations have over our career now," said Judy Barnes, Powell Elementary School special education teacher. "Not only can you get a bad evaluation, if you get two in a year, we can have our licenses removed, taken away. Then we cannot teach anywhere."

Last month, Halls Elementary School teacher Lauren Hopson helped start the movement within the district after speaking up at a school board meeting. That video went viral sparking a lot of buzz.

"All the teachers that came tonight I think it's a great surprise and it's wonderful that teachers have gotten inspired to speak up," Hopson told 6 News.

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