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KCS Board of Education considers resolution seeking to delay standardized testing

The Knox County Board of Education held a work session meeting Wednesday following an announcement that the start of classes would be delayed until August 24 for Knox County Schools.
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 5:00 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2020 at 12:41 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Knox County Board of Education held a work session meeting Wednesday following an announcement that the start of classes would be delayed until August 24 for Knox County Schools.

LIVE: Knox County Board of Education meets following decision to delay classes until August 24. Updates --> https://bit.ly/33x2JcS

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

During his opening remarks, KCS Superintendent Bob Thomas gave multiple reasons for the delay, including needing time to train new hires and further training for current staff.

He also said in an email to employees that they saw significantly more interest in the school system’s virtual learning platform than expected; more than 18,000 students have enrolled.

Thomas said the school was considering a contract Florida Virtual School to supplement their virtual offerings. He said the Florida Virtual School has been approved by the Tennessee Board of Education. He said it would cover positions that they “have no applicants for.”

According to the Florida Virtual School website, it offers virtual “supportive online learning for Kindergarten-12.”

The website says, “Whether you live in Florida or beyond, you can access more than 190 courses with us, from Algebra to AP Art History and everything in between. Our courses are real—just like the certified teachers who teach them. Public, private, and homeschool students from Kindergarten through 12th grade use our courses to succeed on their own time and schedules.” You can learn more about it here.

One board member, Jennifer Owen who represents the 2nd District, voiced concern about the potential outsourcing of positions, saying it was problematic considering the trajectory of the economy in the state amid the pandemic.

Thomas said there were 159 vacancies that had yet to be filled, but he said he would send a list of those positions to the board for their review.

“It [outsourcing] is not the preferred method,” Thomas added. Without adding the positions, Thomas said about 1,100 or 1,400 students would not be able to be placed in the virtual program they’ve enrolled in. Thomas said the school system has had fewer teachers in 2020 than in the previous three years.

Another member said the contract that the school system is looking at with Florida Virtual School said that the contract length is not permanent, and would be around a year.

Owen also suggested KCS adopt another school calendar. School board chair Susan Horn added that a change of the calendar was not popular when the school system held a survey for parents and families in June.

The board also reviewed the possibility of passing a resolution seeking the pausing of state-mandated testing.

“If this is one thing that we can advocate for ... I have no doubt that the professional teachers we have will do a good job ... regardless " of a state-mandated test, Horn said, supporting the resolution.

“The focus needs to be more on our students, not standardized tests,” said Tanya Coates during the public forum.

The board is set to meet again for a regular session August 12.

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