Feb 5 2013
09:58 pm

(Cross-posted in part from the "TN SCORE Annual Report" thread.)

I'm just back from Dr. McIntyre's State of the Schools address at Powell High. The event was held in the school's auditorium, which seats about 400, and attendees appeared to number around 300.

I think all school board members were present and commissioners present were McKenzie, Broyles, Norman, Hammond, Briggs, Smith, and Wright, as well as Mayor Burchett.

At one point, all teachers, administrators, and school personnel were asked to stand and these appeared to comprise 2/3 of attendees.

Details of McIntyre's report were as follows:

An overview of students' achievement levels, "value-added" measures, and graduation rates over a five-year span indicated that all are on the rise, at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

McIntyre therefore employed these successes to pitch essentially the same budget expenditures he cited to commission last spring, namely increased spending for classroom technology and the APEX teacher evaluation/strategic compensation model (although he for the first time cited a need to raise base teacher pay across the board).

Personally, I was surprised that he continued to pitch via his PowerPoint presentation this APEX evaluation model (and that same strategic comp model, too), given that the Department of Education is even now producing a bill to "reform" that model?

I did get an opportunity to ask Deakins, Kincannon, and Carson all why McIntyre continues to pitch the model, surely knowing that it is to be gutted this legislative session to the hopeful benefit of these 70% of teachers for whom it didn't work.

All three replied that Huffman is only "tweaking" the model.

As I see it, though, if it is to work differently for this vast majority of Tennessee's teachers, his proposed changes won't be "tweaks" at all. Changes that voluminous constitute an "overhaul."

We'll have to wait to see just what he's proposing now, but it seems to me a victory already that Huffman has conceded this "data driven" model was little more than "garbage in, garbage out."

Tamara Shepherd's picture


(And in a second cross-post from the "TN SCORE Annual Report" thread...)

Another beef I've had with the TEAM/APEX evaluation model (and which I don't think we've discussed here) is that 10% of teachers' total points relate to whether they're teaching in any high-needs school.

However, there aren't enough teaching positions in high-needs schools for every teacher conceivably willing to teach in one to do so. In fact, given the volume of high-needs schools we have here in Knox County, only about half our local teachers could do so.

How, then, can we rationalize "docking" half our teachers this 10% of total possible evaluation points if these teachers lack the opportunity to earn these points by teaching in such schools?

This would be like you and me enrolling in some college course at which, on the first day of instruction, our prof advised us that, try as we might, even if every last one of us should produce "A" work, exactly half of us will be awarded just 90 points, or a "B." "Don't argue," our prof says, "that's just the way it is."

From inception of this TEAM/APEX model, I have failed to understand how this aspect of the formula may be explained or defended--nor have I yet read anything to indicate that Huffman's bill will address this deficiency.

AnonymousOne's picture

Huffman's bill just makes it

Huffman's bill just makes it worse.

Tennessee Education Report


reform4's picture

SROs- where will the revenue come from?

Dunno how many schools will need to add armed SROs that aren't already there, but lets say a modest 60 schools, and just one armed SRO (which is pretty thin and wouldn't stop a determined shooter).

Est $60k/yr for salary, training, and equipment. Add 20% more officers to cover sick leave, vacation. That's about $4M/year, roughly a 4% to 5 % property tax hike?

We can't hike taxes to pay our teachers what thru should, but we can for ineffective gestures?

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Steve, not sure but I'm thinking your cost estimate for SROs might be overstated...

My understanding is that we already have them on duty at all middle and high schools, so that would leave only the 50-ish (not 60) elementary schools to be staffed?

Also, I'm pretty sure those folks earn more like $30K or less (not $60K), although their benefit packages would boost that total cost somewhat?

Finally, based on former Finance Director John Werner's rule of thumb, every penny on the property tax generates about $800,000, so I'm guessing an increase of two or three cents (which is much less than 2% or 3%) would be adequaate to cover this cost, if that were the route commissioners chose to take to fund SROs?

(My own position is in support of expanded SROs, but only as part of a more comprehensive plan to include greater attention to how mental health issues and lax gun control also fuel gun violence/mass shootings. Attack the problem on all fronts?)

Mike Cohen's picture

School security


I understand your point, but regardless of how you feel about the issue, I think the Superintendent is making his recommendation based on feedback. Parents have to feel the school is safe and with all that has happened in our country, an increasing number of parents want an action like that. I believe that is why McIntyre made the recommendation, not because that is where he would prefer to spend money, but because parents are demanding it.

I could be wrong, but that was the sense I got listening to the speech.

reform4's picture


I'm not critiquing the supe at all, it's more of a critique of County Commission and their allergy to taxes. They may find it hard to vote against more armed guards in our schools (then again, they may not), but it was a contrast of what it will cost (not just salary, but benefits, training costs, equipment, developing new procedures, etc) vs. what we allow for paying our best teachers.

As an aside, IMHO, if you want to prevent such tragedies, rather than a weak, expensive strategy that, at best, limits the body count once it starts... maybe..., you improve the anti-bullying campaigns and maybe have a special program aimed at individuals identified as high risk for mental illnesses, esp schizophrenia. Then maybe the first bullet never gets fired at all.

But, that's not as sexy as a guy with a Glock standing outside (er, sorry, Sig Sauers now, I forgot). But we're Tennesseans- we don't need to use logic or think things through, so let's GO FOR IT!

Average Guy's picture

we don't need to use logic or

we don't need to use logic or think things through

That was my point below. The "we" as far as policians go are using logic. They don't rely just on cops to shoot a gunman, they rely on metal detectors to prevent the gun.

If only LaPierre headed a metal detector association...

The whole idea is ridiculous anyway. 99.99% Americans need to stop freaking out every time a tragedy happens to .01% of the population. The world can be dangerous place. If more cops and prisons were the catch all solution, we already would have solved all our problems.

Rachel's picture

99.99% Americans need to stop

99.99% Americans need to stop freaking out every time a tragedy happens to .01% of the population.

I understand why you were trying to say in your post, and I mostly agree with it.

But "freaking out" after 20 first-graders are gunned down in their classrooms is the appropriate response.

You might want to rethink the language.

Average Guy's picture

I also used "tragedy"

I think normal people should internally "freak out" anytime anyone is killed.

Externally, we must look at what can be fixed, work for solutions and trudge ahead.

In the case of Newtown, many gun measures that people would like to implemented wouldn't have changed the situation.

AnonymousOne's picture

If reports are correct that

If reports are correct that children were shot as many as 10 to 11 times...each, and he, reportedly, killed himself as the cops closed in.

Then yes, reduced capacity clips may have made a difference.

It certainly would have made one in Aurora.

Average Guy's picture

"Safe" Schools

Courthouses normally have cops, but have employed the use of metal detectors.

Unless the plan is to have SRO's wand every student walking through the door (nice image eh?), all their presence might prevent is a higher toll.

If parents are intent on getting this from their political leaders, they should at least demand the safety features used by said politicians.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Not to change the subject from school security, but...

I failed to mention to you that Randy Boyd also spoke at last night’s event, making a repeat pitch for this iPad-for-every-student notion Dr. McIntyre floated last spring.

Therefore, I seized the opportunity during the social hour that followed the program to relay to McIntyre face-to-face a longstanding complaint you have heard me register (as have three seated school board members, who took no action whatsoever on the problem), namely that after more than a decade of hearing from me on the subject, this school system still can’t even produce a middle school or high school report card reflecting a student’s cumulative GPA AND this school system can’t produce a student transcript summarizing a student’s report cards until manually keying that data from the report card software to the transcript software, an archaic process carrying a high margin for human error.

I also shared with McIntyre an assertion made to me by a former school board member as to why KCS is saddled with this archaic process, namely because the computer software the school system uses was the consequence of a no-bid contract awarded to a Central Office employee’s brother years ago, and I identified for him the name of the school board member to have informed me of this.

McIntyre, whom I’m told has a seventh grader this year and who should therefore have observed this deficiency in his own student’s report cards over the last two school years, appeared to be unaware of any such deficiency. I was pleasantly surprised that he actually jotted down a note to follow up on my complaint.

I mention this—again—to point out the absurdity of successive superintendent’s pie-in-the-sky plans for our school system, each of them dismissive of more rudimentary problems in our policies and procedures that should be commanding their attention first.

McIntyre’s and Boyd’s repeat pitch for an iPad-for-every-student prior to addressing our inability to produce accurate and complete report cards and transcripts is one such example of the problem. McIntyre’s repeat pitch of the APEX teacher evaluation model even as the DoE is rewriting that very model now is another example of the problem. And, of course, his repeat pitch of a strategic comp plan already revealed by multiple studies not to be of effect is yet another such example of the problem.

I remember, years ago, some comments former school board member Robert Bratton made in response to former Superintendent Charles Lindsey’s so-called World Class Schools plan. Frustrated, Bratton cited teacher salaries in adjacent counties that were far in excess of those paid by Knox County and he asked if maybe we could just concentrate on becoming an East Tennessee Class school system first.

At the time, I found Bratton’s comment to be a bit provincial and I thought him a bit of a rube.

The longer I remain the parent of Knox County Schools students, though, the more clearly I understand his objection.

AnonymousOne's picture

"to point out the absurdity

"to point out the absurdity of successive superintendent’s pie-in-the-sky plans for our school system, each of them dismissive of more rudimentary problems in our policies and procedures that should be commanding their attention first."

Ain't it the truth. Sounds like last night was somewhat surreal looking at all the issues over school security, which seems to put into question McIntyre's and the BOE's credibility and accountability and trustworthiness.

Beyond that, the TEAM deal at the state level is nothing but a way, dressed up in a positive manner of course, to strip employees of pay raises.

I agree with Mike Cohen's argument somewhat, but the Newtown incident couldn't have been avoided with anti-bullying campaigns or any programs dealing with students. Lanza was an outside danger.

Of course, because the whole security/ technology system is under scrutiny, a discussion of the cost of having more armed guards should maybe look at how other funds are spent or misspent in other areas.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Of course, because the whole security/ technology system is under scrutiny, a discussion of the cost of having more armed guards should maybe look at how other funds are spent or misspent in other areas.

McIntyre's PowerPoint also included a slide asserting the need to continue funding our magnet school program.

However, that program has been of virtually no help in integrating our school system (the last I heard, among students enrolled in our magnet schools only around 1000 of our total 55000 students were attending magnets from out-of-zone).

Neither has the program succeeded in boosting student achievement for in-zone magnet students.

And of course, the so-called Magnet School Task Force met for months on end some years back, only to fail to bring back any recommendation to the board as to how the program should be revamped.

Apparently, we're expected to ignore all these problems and just continue funding them ad infinitum???

AnonymousOne's picture

The Washington Post had a

The Washington Post had a good article on magnet schools about 10 years ago, basically how they re-segregate once the students are inside.

"Apparently, we're expected to ignore all these problems and just continue funding them ad infinitum???"

The hope and prayer of all well paid bureaucrats.

fischbobber's picture

Total Slots

How many total slots are available in the magnet system? Neither the STEM nor the IB program has had a graduating class, have they? (I'm asking here. I'm not certain.)

By what measure are they a failure? Integration? In-zone improvement?

I was under the impression that the function of the magnet schools was to bring a diversification of educational experiences to our school system. That they were to be almost by definition, an ongoing experiment in, and of themselves.

When I look at transfer figures, it looks to me like a lot of the title nine transfers are going to Farragut instead of a magnet program. Is the system failing, or are we misreading statistics?

Tamara Shepherd's picture


WRT our failed magnet schools, I should concede that what KCS tried to achieve with that program was a laudable goal.

For that matter, what KCS tried to achieve with their 2007 systemwide rezoning of high schools was also a laudable goal--although by then, board members should have realized that they wouldn't achieve their goal via rezoning for the same reason they hadn't been able to achieve their goal via creating the magnet school program.

Now, we see at least some of them falling hook, line, and sinker for yet another fix, namely "education reform," equally unlikely to achieve its laudable goals.

What all three of these fixes have in common is that all three approaches seek to boost student achievement via integrating our school system, but none of the three fixes can or does address the root problem of ours being a burg that itself has yet to be integrated.

I'll repeat, then, that our root problem in Knox County is a housing problem.

It's a problem that can't be solved by repeatedly trying to "bring the mountain to Mohammed," which is exactly what our magnet program and our rezoning ploy and now our "ed reform" efforts are attempting by simply shuffling students from one locale to another during school hours.

I sympathize with KCS administrators and school board members that they have no control over the fair and equitable distribution of housing stock in Knox County.

I am growing quite impatient, though, that none of them is willing to stand up and identify the problem as one rooted in housing.

Is this because the lightbulb hasn't yet clicked on for them or is this because they lack the courage and conviction to launch a campaign to educate the citizenry on the topic?

I can't say, but until they align their policies and their spending with this goal--coupled with some advocacy that others should address this housing problem that they cannot address--I'll keep pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.

AnonymousOne's picture

Haslam is contorting himself

Haslam is contorting himself enough to get a conservative nod for a presidential or vp bid on a lot of the TEAM/APEX, school choice nonsense.

He'll wind up wrecking Tennessee schools even more and lose his credibility among middle class independent, and conservative Democrats, many of them being state workers and teachers.

Teacher morale couldn't be much lower across the state.

And his merit matters initiatives couldn't ring more hollow coming from someone with BA degree in history and a name.

I think for a lot of Tennesseans it's getting tiresome.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Sheesh...I'll have to read that through a time or two more to be sure I got the gist of it.

But I didn't catch any mention that Huffman had a hand in this one?

In any event, even if he did this bill relates to a proposed strategic comp plan, not a revised teacher evaluation model.

About the latter, the article says:

Given that the State is adjusting the evaluation system as well, to decrease the prevalence of 3, 4, and 5 scores, the success of this new compensation system will depend largely on the success of the underlying evaluation system, for good or ill.

Huffman's own comments on the subject of the revised teacher evaluation model, though, were to the effect that his proposal would address how to measure the effectiveness of that 70% (he said) of "test-less" teachers?

Huffman didn't suggest that he was revising the evaluation model to "decrease the prevalence of 3, 4, and 5 scores?"

Well, I guess any bad news on the revised teacher evaluation model is to arrive separately sometime soon.

AnonymousOne's picture

You really think that just

You really think that just because it doesn't have his signature that both him and Haslam aren't behind all of it?

"the success of this new compensation system will depend largely on the success of the underlying evaluation system, for good or ill."

"success of the underlying evaluation system."

Rewritten this means: In other words, it's the evaluation system's fault, not ours, because the evaluation model is objective and measures what is supposed to be measured. Can't question it. It's not Huffman's fault. It's certainly not the Governor's fault. It's the model's fault, or yours, as a teacher, to do what the model expects. And the model won't ever be wrong.

It means how well a teacher does salary-wise will depend on what cockamamie evaluation system Nashvile deems acceptable.

From what I've heard, Huffman's revisions could include having testless teachers do portfolios, because you know teachers just don't have enough paperwork to do.

Don't expect some innovative, useful revision.

Min's picture

Twisting data to fit pre-determined outcomes.

That is the Huffman way.

He has taken the position that the teacher score results should match a bell curve, which is completely ludicrous, especially when using an evaluation system with as many design flaws as the TEAM model has. He also takes the position that classroom observation results should exactly track testing results, and if they don't, then it is the classroom observation data that has been inflated, and the state will do whatever is necessary to bring those classrooms observations in line with test results. Never once has he ever publically considered that there might be some question as to the validity of basing evaluation of a teacher's performance on a single standardized test result. He would rather distort the data and force it to fit into an outcome that validates his theory of teacher evaluation. Quite frankly, I can think of few things that are more reprehensible in an educator.

I have no respect for him, at all.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


You really think that just because it doesn't have his signature that both him and Haslam aren't behind all of it?

Dunno, but this concept of a strategic comp plan tied to students' value-added test scores and for which a teacher may opt in, but can't (really) opt back out is one ALEC has promoted since 2002.

AnonymousOne's picture

Yeah, word on the streets,

Yeah, word on the streets, correction: in the school hallways, is that they want to do away with tenure altogether.

The governor is doing political gymnastics to whatever tune the conservatives are playing.

He stays off the S.S. Campfield, but he knows full well that his conservative bona fides will be what he accomplishes as governor.

Huffman is probably having dreams as a cabinet secretary. Imagine Rumsfeld as Sec of Education. The consequences to the people and the state are small in view of the greater objective.

The consequences are in fact inconsequential when time is measured in election cycles, the objectives are polling results based upon specifically worded polling questions and image makers, and the goal is a higher office.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Frankly, I momentarily forgot that the STEM school is now part of the magnet program, so my comments were exclusive of that particular magnet.

The IB program at West High, though, is not considered to be any magnet program, since students from out-of-zone can't transfer to West to participate in IB.

The schools originally established as magnets became such in the early 90's, after the fed's Office of Civil Rights demanded KCS integrate its public school system. Those original magnets are certainly failures by that measure, since they did not successfully integrate our school system.

And yes, they are also failures in that their creation has not succeeded in boosting achievement among students zoned for those schools, either.

But again, having watched over the decades these attempts to boost student achievement first by integrating locally via the magnet program, then by integrating locally via the high school rezoning, and now, in other locales statewide, by administering these "reforms-from-afar," all the while keeping communities' impoverished quarantined in our crumbling central cities' bleakest neighborhoods, has convinced me that trying to "bring the mountain to Mohammed" simply won't get the job done.

Our area--and other urban areas statewide--needs to concentrate on better distributing affordable housing throughout the school system.

Only then can we be assured of viable student demographics in every school community, before and after 3:30 p.m. daily.

And it's crucial that school communities be integrated after 3:30 p.m., too.

Every school board member elected to boost student achievement has a moral imperative to stand up and say so.

Rachel's picture

The IB program at West High,

The IB program at West High, though, is not considered to be any magnet program, since students from out-of-zone can't transfer to West to participate in IB.

Hmm. A kid in my neighborhood is in the IB program at West. Wonder how he pulled that off?

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I dunno. I'll look over the KCS site to try and see if I'm mistaken?

(I was still covering school board meetings for the Focus when the program was first pitched and thought I had all the details?)

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I'm mistaken.

The West High site says a "limited number" of transfer apps will be approved, based on students' academic qualification, and that apps are to be submitted to the Magnet School Office.

Didn't realize that...

Rachel's picture

I thought this kid had tested

I thought this kid had tested in. He deserves it and I'm sure will do very well.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


All I remembered (because it rankled me) is that when West teachers and administrators made their very first pitch, one school board member protested that KCS "couldn't possibly" offer a program like this at every local high school.

This, while we were operating 14 Project GRAD schools and, what, four or five other magnet schools? For the other end of the performance spectrum, I mean?

My primary recollection was that all school board members seemed intent on really limiting IB participation (and on passing on all IB costs to the families of participants).

AnonymousOne's picture

Why U.S. schools are better

Why U.S. schools are better than we think


Tamara Shepherd's picture


Yes, AO, I've frequently linked this report (It's Poverty, Not Stupid) analyzing 2009 PISA data to the same effect.

Meanwhile, I went to bed last night mulling the subject Rachel and I last discussed, namely that the IB program at West High is a magnet program and I didn't know it.

Now, I'm somebody who over the last fifteen years served on the PTAs of all three of my kids' schools (as well as on the county level PTA), volunteered in schools outside my community, served as education chair for the League of Women Voters, and wrote an education column for a community newspaper. I've probably attended more school board meetings during these years than anyone not employed or elected to serve the schools, too.

So I think it's pretty telling that I missed the fact that West High's IB program serves as a magnet and I got to recollecting when, as parent to a 21 year-old and a 16 year-old, I last received any promotion or communication from the school system concerning its magnet program--letter in the mailbox, flyer in the backpack, robocall, anything.

WRT my older child, it was at the beginning of her sixth and seventh grade years (which was ten and eleven years ago), when KCS sent home flyers in her backpack promoting the opening of the transfer window for students interested in attending Vine Middle Magnet. We attended Vine's info session both years, but found too little difference in the school's offerings to compensate for the inconveniences of enrolling her there. We never received any promotional info concerning Sarah Moore Green Elementary, Beaumont Elementary, or A-E High. (Neither the STEM High nor West High's IB program had yet been developed during her K-12 years.)

WRT my younger child, I do not recall receiving any promotional info concerning Sarah Moore Green Elementary, Beaumont Elementary, A-E High, or West High's IB program, ever. It seems we got a single flyer promoting Vine Middle in his backpack during his middle school years and we later got a single flyer promoting the STEM High School in his backpack during his freshman year (but not during his sophomore or junior years).

Given that participation in our older magnet schools, especially, is quite low, wouldn't you think KCS would want to better inform parents and students of the school system's magnet offerings???

Surely that's a recommendation that Magnet School Task Force might have offered? One recommendation, rather than none???

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Okay, so I wanted to more thoroughly investigate this question of whether KCS had adequately promoted West High's status as a magnet school and students' ability to transfer into the program.

A search of archives at the News-Sentinel site using the keywords "International Baccalaureate West High" produced nine news stories over a nearly five year period (5/19/08 through the present) that referenced the West High program.

Among the nine stories over nearly five years, not one of them identified the West High IB program as a "magnet school."

Among the nine stories over nearly five years, just two of them indicated that it was possible for students outside the West High zone to transfer into the school. A story on 12/9/10 indicated that 80 such transfers could be accommodated that year and a story on 3/2/11 indicated that just 50 such transfers could be accommodated that year. And this second story appeared under the heading "State Briefs" along with single paragraphs relating to various state-level (not local-level) matters of interest?

Meanwhile, the West High web page indicates that the transfer window in which students may enroll in their IB program is open now, but no mention has been made in the News-Sentinel and no mention appears at the KCS website. In fact, even the West High website fails to indicate how many (few?) openings may be available in the IB program this year.

I'll then venture the observation that the West High IB "magnet school" is a pretty tightly held secret.

I'll also venture the observation that a "magnet school" attracting fifty or fewer students from out-of-zone isn't much of a "magnet," either.

AnonymousOne's picture

It's just window dressing

It's just window dressing anyway, like the STEM school that's supposed to say "Hey! We ARE doing something!"

When I saw a news report showing STEM students making paper airplanes to measure distance and speed to learn math, I laughed.

I had my fifth graders do that at a Knox County school...9 years ago.

fischbobber's picture

I.B. Program

The I.B Program is a specialized area of study.

It's not a secret, and those of us , including you, that have been looking for this sort of information have access to it. At this point, there hasn't been a graduating class from the IB program, so we're really not yet sure if kids will even stick with the curriculum (it is incredibly demanding).

I believe that the public education system should serve the gifted as well as the mainstream and challenged student, and believe that the IB program is both needed and warranted within our system.

At this point, in this town, the IB program is in its infancy and could legitimately be termed experimental. Those of us that have committed to participate have weighed the risks and rewards and determined that it is in our child's best interest to pursue this path of education.

Eventually, like the STEM program, it will likely be chosen by lottery of the qualified, applying students. For that to happen, it is crucial that the first classes are successful. In my humble opinion, it would be detrimental to the entire community to work in a counterproductive manner in regards to, what has the potential to be, a shining star in our public education system.

And yes, my son is applying to the program.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


It's not a secret, and those of us , including you, that have been looking for this sort of information have access to it.

Bob, I think it's great that students can transfer into this program.

I'm ticked off, though, on two points: That only 50 can and that there has been no promotion whatsover of the program.

And yes, it has most certainly been kept a secret. I've already cited five years of coverage in our daily newspaper, not a single story of which characterized West as a "magnet?" The KCS website doesn't characterize West as a "magnet" and neither does the high school's very own website characterize the school as a "magnet!"

I also cited just two news stories in our daily newspaper over the same five years that even indicated transfers were possible, one of these a single paragraph under the heading "State Briefs!"

Look, I've been a parent of a Knox County Schools high school student for about eight years AND I attend every parent conference and open house and State of the Schools-sort-of-function to be had AND I was still serving on a PTA board at the time this program was created AND, then and now, I often attend or watch school board meetings, yet I wasn't informed via any of these mechanisms of this opportunity?!

No letter in my mailbox, no flyer in my kid's backpack, no robocall, nothing?!

I'm sorry, but that's just ridiculous.

Neither this "magnet" program nor any other of our magnet programs (aside from Vine Middle and the new STEM) has ever been promoted to parents of students during the fifteen years I've had students in this system, period.

So KCS shouldn't have to ask why so few students county wide participate, particularly among the older, east side magnet schools.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


One last thought on this topic: At the very least, you'd think KCS would inform parents of students already taking honors and AP coursework in 9th and 10th grades, given that these are the very kids most likely to qualify for IB?

The more I think about this, the more baffled I become.

What are they thinking???

Bbeanster's picture

I covered West for 3 years,

I covered West for 3 years, and knew of a few students who transferred in because of the IB program, so, obviously, they knew they could do that. I wrote about it, even.
But isn't that the same with any program that is unique to one school – kids who need/want that program are allowed to transfer in? That doesn't make it a magnet school.
I'm not sure what the precise definition of a "magnet" school is, but I think you are using it too loosely.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Here is the KCS Application for Magnet Transfer, which lists both West High (for their IB program) and Fulton High (for their communications program) as magnet schools (scroll down thru half the first page to see list), but like I said, this is the only spot I've seen the schools characterized as magnets.

The News-Sentinel archives doesn't, the KCS site doesn't, and even the sites of the schools themselves don't. No U.S. mail, flyers-in-backpacks, nor robocalls from KCS have, either. And no posters, handouts, nor announcements from KCS at any open house, parent conference, or larger assembly.

And yes, I learned that Fulton High is a magnet just tonight.

Did your column on West's IB magnet program run in the Powell edition, I wonder?

Anyway, it's not your responsibility, Betty, to inform the parents of high school students of the magnet opps available to their kids.

It's the school system's responsibility.

Clearly, they've failed it--and not just with regard to West High.

AnonymousOne's picture

"thinking" Another term you


Another term you may be using too loosely in association with KCS.

Indya's picture

Magnet transfer application is Feb 18th

Thanks for the discussion regarding magnet schools. We have lots of room to improve, but I think the magnet schools and the corresponding outreach about them have gotten significantly better in recent years.

I counted 6 KCS press releases about magnet schools in the last year. I know I've seen announcements about magnet open houses listed in the News Sentinel, in the news items section, not an actual story.

KCS has distributed information to parents about magnet schools. I've had brochures sent home and robo calls about the magnet showcases at Knoxville Museum of Art, so I'm not sure why this hasn't reached you, Tamara.

The new programs are getting a lot of attention and parent interest. Fulton's Communications magnet is, like the IB & L&N, only in its second year, but word is spreading and applications are up at all 3 schools. Fulton Communications students are contributing to the PR efforts, which is pretty cool.

I have greater concerns about the original magnet schools, Vine, A-E, Green, Sarah Moore Greene. Beaumont is also an original magnet but has had steady and increasing interest all along. Those magnet programs got a lot of attention and resources when they began in the 90s, but as their offerings became less unique, interest waned, enrollment waned, staff and programs were cut, making the schools less 'magnetic'. Our budget last year included the first significant increase in magnet schools in a long time, and it appears that they're putting the funds to good use. A-E has bolstered its theater programs, Green has become a STEAM school (STEM + Arts), and so on. It's a little of a chicken and egg problem, but I think as quality goes up, interest will too.

We have not done an elementary school re-zoning since I've been on the Board of Ed, so I'm not sure how/why the zone lines are drawn. I know that in my immediate neighborhood (4th & Gill) more people are using public schools now than in 2004, which is a huge positive in my view.


Tamara Shepherd's picture


Like I said, Indya, the only communication my older child ever had from KCS concerning magnets took place ten or eleven years ago, when she brought home flyers two years in a row for Vine Middle, and the only communications my younger child ever had from KCS concerning magnets took place about seven and three years ago, when he just once brought home flyers for Vine Middle and the STEM school, respectively.

But again, WRT West and Fulton, the News-Sentinel archives don't characterize these schools as magnets, the KCS site doesn't, and even the sites of the schools themselves don't.

And this household has received no U.S. mail, flyers-in-backpacks, nor robocalls from KCS pertaining to these new magnet schools, either, nor has KCS notified us via any posters, handouts, or announcements at any open house, parent conference, or larger assembly, ever.

Neither have I ever heard from any source in any manner anything about any magnet showcase at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

This household does subscribe to the KNS daily (and we at least look it over daily).

I'm especially perturbed to learn that even Honors/AP students, those most likely to have an interest in and qualify for the IB program, have not been specifically contacted about these opportunities.

I disagree strongly that these circumstances constitute "significantly better outreach" and I'd like to ask that you please look into why these several venues in which students and parents might be informed of students' educational opportunities aren't being utilized.

Meanwhile, please disregard my prior request to ensure that students' report cards reflect a cumulative GPA and that their permanent transcripts be accurate and complete.

Given that these deficiencies have quite literally cost my household several thousand dollars (due to the incompete and erroneous student transcript KCS provided my older student), I took up my complaint with Jim McIntyre directly this week.


Indya's picture

magnet outreach

Hi Tamara,

I think your School Board member, Kim Sepesi, will have much greater familiarity with the magnet outreach efforts in the Powell area. I encourage you to contact her with your concerns.


Tamara Shepherd's picture


Households zoned for the three Powell schools live in School Board Districts 6, 7 and 2, that last one being your district.

You have represented these households on the school board through two full terms and now a third.

Really, though, I don't need to ask Sepesi or any school board representative whether magnet schools have been promoted for free and directly to the parties potentially interested in their services through methods like printed messages on computer-generated report cards and mentions at open houses or parent conferences or State of the Schools PowerPoint presentations, for instance.

I know that magnet schools have not been promoted in those ways and to these parties, so I am reporting to you, an elected representative of these school zones, that they have not been.

What I mean to point out is that the promotional methods KCS appears to be relying on per your comments here seem to be those dependent on parents spending something (on daily newspaper subscriptions or Internet service or jumping in the car and paying to drive somewhere and paying to park, for instance) and exerting an undue level of effort to seek out information KCS has.

Especially given that half our local school population can't afford lunch money, we should understand that such methods are not reasonable on the part of KCS.

Even if these costs imposed on parents to obtain the information were not an issue, though, we should still understand that such methods are not effective.

Clearly, the occasional newspaper blurb filed under "State Briefs" here and the Magnet Transfer Form buried on an Internet website there (which site one would first need to know to access, even if one had Internet) are not methods capable of reaching all of KCS's "customers."

It is difficult to understand, then, why KCS is choosing NOT to utilize promotional methods that are free (to both them and their "customers") AND that more effectively target the parties to which their information is of interest.

So I'm not asking any question. I'm relating a report from a school community. And you are one of three persons representing the school community.

Pickens's picture

I clearly recall getting

I clearly recall getting robocalls inviting us to meetings to learn more about magnet schools. I think (but not 100% certain) we received emails as well.

fischbobber's picture

IB and magnets


Here is the transfer policy for the IB program. It is clearly labeled a magnet program. While I certainly don't question your good intentions, I think it is fair to point out that transfers are accepted within KCS for a number of reasons. It is fair to say we became aware of the IB program because we aggressively pursued an accounting of all the options available to our child through KCS, but it's not really fair to accuse the school system of hiding the IB program.

It was difficult to find and our original google search took us to a high school in Alaska around this time last year. I think it's fair to ask ourselves if we would rather the school administrators spend their time working on the actual students and curriculum or whether we would rather they spend their time promoting an idea that's in its infancy. I don't think it's fair to slam the school administrators for prioritizing in the manner they have. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that had they put publicity in front of function, they would be derelict in their duties as educators.

I would humbly ask anyone concerned to deeply look at this program, at a variety of levels, before slamming the school system. These are not charter schools, they are magnet programs. If we, as a community, can't make a magnet system work, charters will come.

The immediate question is, do we want to expend on resources on developing quality curriculums, or do we want to expend our resources promoting ideas that have yet to be fully developed? My opinion is that we're on the right track here.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Pickens, all I can tell you is that this household routinely gets robocalls from KCS on a variety of subjects, but I have never gotten one on this subject. Who knows, maybe one of my kids took such a call.

Bob, you said:...

Here is the transfer policy for the IB program. It is clearly labeled a magnet program.

...but what I'm saying is that in order to have any reason to search for this application online, one would first have to know that a transfer into the program is possible (and then one would have to have Internet service), else why go searching for the app?

You are aware that the manually-generated elementary report card is chock full of notices, newsletters, and coupons every time it's issued.

You are also aware that the computer-generated report card in middle school (and high school) bears a number of timely school-related announcements printed on its face and it is often stapled to the school's newsletter, too.

What I'm pointing out is that some people don't take the daily newspaper and even if they do they may miss an obscure paragraph on our local magnet school program under the heading "State Briefs."

I'm also pointing out that some people may not have caught this column Betty wrote in the Shopper-News (if, in fact, it appeared in their community's edition).

However, no parent is going to fail to open and read his student's report card, which in the past was the only method KCS used to promote the magnet program, at least to this household, and we got the memo.

I share these observations with Indya because she served (for over a year, I think) on the Magnet School Task Force that failed to make any recommendation to the board as to how KCS might grow the program and I believe I have some insight into how KCS might more effectively promote the program, for cheap or free, assured that they are reaching their target audience, namely parents of students.

Meanwhile, on my son's last report card prior to the Christmas break in December, there was no mention among the announcements printed there that any transfer window was soon to open nor to which magnet schools he might apply.

Neither was any mention made on this topic when I attended his spring semester open house in January.

Neither was any mention made (nor PowerPoint slide inserted) on this topic when I attended the State of the Schools presentation in February.

Any or all of these three communications KCS might have made for free, directly to the parents of students, and at a timely juncture.

They didn't, so I'm suggesting they do.

(And Bob, I'm not "slamming the school system" for having created an IB program. I wish I'd known before it was too late that my student could have transferred into it.)

fischbobber's picture


However, no parent is going to fail to open and read his student's report card, which in the past was the only method KCS used to promote the magnet program, at least to this household, and we got the memo.

Neither of my parents ever saw a report card from my eighth grade year forward. They had other priorities.

I haven't seen a hard copy of my son's report card in a while. I review his fusion page about every other day.

By every measure of today's educational process, I was a resounding success coming out of high school. I tested in the top 1%. My scholarship applications had a high success rate. What I'd been taught to do, though, was work and drink.

I couldn't network and had a problem with authority. Still can't and do. I had horrible study habits and my parents participation was sparse if one was to view it generously. I had early dismissal and worked 40-50 hours a week my senior year of high school. And no, lots of people didn't do that at Farragut. No one cared if I failed or succeeded (beyond being able to take credit for my achievements) and in the end, my desire for food and shelter trumped my desire for an intellectually fulfilling life. Without mentors, role models and someone in their corner it can be difficult on a child. Maybe Nietzsche's right, but that doesn't make it any lesson easier learned for a fourteen year old kid. But let's not make this personal.

The IB program, and STEM Academy will both likely have more applicants than slots. They are upper level programs set up for high achievers. How is begging for applicants and diluting the talent pool benefitting anyone?

Transfers into every school in our system are "possible" if one has a legitimate reason and refuses to take no for an answer. You might not make friends, and your child better make the grades, but if your reason is legitimate, you can make it happen. Magnet applications are open to all. I didn't say the process was easy, I said open.

Until the success and continued operation of our current magnet system appears to be insured, I think it is unwise to promote the program. Read back through your own assessment of our original, highly touted, highly promoted magnet system and tell me. Should our school system have attempted the same thing with the same technique? We're trying to educate our children here. As a parent, I'm well aware that participating in a new experimental program is a risk. I'm aware that there is no track record. And I'm also aware that our school system has a less than stellar record at previous attempts. So you tell me, should I put my child under a spotlight in the event the experiment doesn't work? To what end? So he can take the blame?

Ultimately the bottom line is this. Has your child, either one, been cheated out of a quality education? If so, whose fault is it? It would appear that you have strong opinions about what is in your child's best interest. I appreciate that. It would further appear, that you have acted upon your instincts and that your concern is that you may have missed something. I appreciate that too. Now ask yourself this. Was he prepared, coming out of middle school, for thirty hours a week of homework? If not, he probably wasn't prepared for IB. Were you prepared for ten hours a week of commuting? If not, you probably weren't prepared for IB. Does your child have an academic and athletic extracurricular activity? (Actually that's a trick question. Your son's a scout. He just needs one more outside activity.)

At this point, I don't think publicity is what this program needs. What it needs are the right kids and a little luck.

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