School leaders hope TN legislature makes changes amid pandemic at upcoming special session

Keeping Schools Safe

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – With half an academic year still ahead, local school leaders hope for flexibility for teacher accountability, as well as testing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many state testing regulations involve in-person requirements. Local school leaders told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that this should be waived amid the pandemic, and hope this is addressed at the state legislature’s upcoming special session on education.

“Some flexibility with the state assessment,” Johnson City Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett said. “With the amount of students that are in quarantine by contact tracing that we have to do to keep our schools open and also that flexibility for students who for their families chose remote learning for good reasons and just are not comfortable coming in to in-person so the state at this point is requiring that to be done in-person at the school, some flexibility in that area for us to work with families so we can do some assessment.”

Barnett told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that he hopes the state legislature make certain decisions about testing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For this to be more of a year where we’re assessing what was learned, what was possibly where those learning losses are, and then maybe next year be a baseline year to where we look at a baseline and then have value added assessments going on after that,” he said.

“We need to spend our time focusing on those gaps, what was lost, and how we can do the things that we need to do to help students to get caught up,” he added.

“It is going to have to be individualized down to each student and not something that we can just blanket programs for all the students in third grade or all of our students in second grade or all of our juniors and seniors in high school, it needs to be focused on what our students need, what each individual lost and how can we come in and provide services or help them continue to grow.”

Kingsport City Schools Assistant Superintendent Andy True agreed, adding that teacher accountability is paramount when it comes to necessary change.

“You look at those five major goals of the session, I think as a system we’re encouraged and I’m really looking forward to all of those areas and what it could work with, again, or you look at things like funding. The types of resources that are available to us to be able to help with teacher salaries, I think there’s obviously something to look at,” True said.

Kingsport school leaders, as in Johnson City, hope the legislature changes how teachers are held accountable for their students’ grades during the 2020-2021 school year because of the hardships caused by the pandemic.

“For teachers, they are having to go through so much this year and in the efforts that they are putting forth in this environment to be able to address the accountability side of it, I think, it is critical,” he told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.

“Overall, as a district, I think we’re just encouraged that the legislature is taking a specific look at education in this environment because it is such an unusual climate in which we’re operating right now, so you have a particular focus on that the key areas I think is, for us, a positive and will hopefully serve our teachers and our students and our community as well,” True added.

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