Comments by vicspencer

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Written on Building Bridges at Knox County Schools:

This is reality. Little Johnny is bad in school, the parent thinks that Little Johnny never lies, so the parent mistreats the teacher and the board and superintendent do not back the teacher AND do not give the teachers the authority to decide and act at the time of the offense. That in turn damages teacher authority. We better decide in every state what the goal of our school districts is, and stick to it with a firm hand. TEACHERS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT RESOURCE WE HAVE ON WHOM THE FUTURE SUCCESS OF OUR CHILDREN DEPEND. WE CANNOT JUST REPLACE THEM. Some elected board members and superintendents do not seem to understand that. Money is NEVER among the top three reasons for low morale, yet we go to a money solution immediately, which never works. Those other top three reasons for low morale have to be fixed first. Fixing the top three reasons for low morale provides the quickest performance improvement - but you have to survey teacher satisfaction by an independent party and be willing to admit that you don't know some things well enough in management as well as you should and do something about it. "Humble pie" and honesty works. Then send people who manage to management training programs that are very good. Titles are not enough. Without this step nothing will work well enough. the major newspaper in Knoxville, Tennessee does not want to publish the truth about the education district's poor performance, a smaller local paper published this about the teachers' problems: to their credit.

Teacher morale is very low. People with low morale cannot do their best, and we really need them to do their best. US teachers have the longest classroom hour requirement in the world and are overloaded with paperwork. They do not have enough time to properly prepare. They do not get respect from students, parents and central management of the district alike. Teachers are both verbally and physically assaulted by students, and they have zero authority to decide the fate of the offending child...and the students see that the teacher has no authority so they can do whatever they want. Does anyone realize that this is how bullying behavior is encouraged? Doesn't anyone in education management or in state leadership realize what this does to the education of the entire class or school? These are severe management problems. Must be fixed ASAP not by individual districts but by state laws to establish standards across the state.

Written on Building Bridges at Knox County Schools:

Sadly, we are very poor in this area, and under the state laws the school boards and under them a superintendent is responsible for the outcome. If they cannot accept that responsibility, we would like to know how many letters they have written to our law makers and governors to change what prevents them from doing a more successful job. We would recommend that all interested parties read the 2012 OECD-PISA report published in December 2013. It is an excellent document covering the latest trends and success factors in the education results and practices of 65 countries ( with many points relating to what produces good results in teacher evaluations. We are not doing well in this report. We need to recognize that teachers enjoyed protections via tenure because of the poorest management skill levels in the central management of our school districts. A sound performance evaluation is a must and certainly the old system of observation a few times a year by one person was a very poor way to evaluate anyone's performance. Teacher-student relationships are very important, motivating students is very important, and student accomplishments compared before a course starts and after it finishes is very important. We could learn from other nations who are doing very effective teacher evaluations without a single evaluator's personal prejudice. Such professional evaluations make good sense and would be accepted by the teachers who well suited to teaching and are good, confident performers. Like in any profession, there are those who are well suited for it and those who are not. If some teachers are not happy in the profession, why not help them to find THE one for which they would be excellent and be happier. That would be the kinder and more professional thing to do. We don't do such psychological matching and helping for teachers. Other nations do and in private industry we do it. The best performance comes from people who are well matched to the profession and are happy in it.

Performance evaluations are a very important management tool. We created a teacher evaluation system that makes no management sense in a few areas and it drops the already low teacher morale further down. No one can be evaluated fairly based on objectives that they cannot have full control over. Yet at the same time, performance objectives must be measurable and they must start on top, at the board and superintendent level, because direction always comes from the top and there better be accountability on top first. Instead, boards and superintendents decide to give themselves vague objectives (there are actual examples on my website), and then they prepare their own performance reviews, giving themselves excellent ratings, give the superintendent a four year contract/guarantee, when the results are deplorable. This is not a positive professional move. Just think about this.


Written on Learning Problems: Knox School Achievement Gains are Lagging:

TCAP scores have half the rigor of the ACT in 2013. That means that the ACT shows a twice as high result as what the ACT would show. It is the ACT who measures accurately whether or not the student with a regular diploma is ready for job training or finish the first year only of a college or tech school. "College readiness does not mean college completion readiness. According to ACT in 2006, job readiness and college entry readiness have merged per their tests and investigations.

If you take the ACT documentation, for 2012 it shows clearly that 84% of those who enter high school in grade 9 will not even be ready to be trained for a job, because of drop outs plus the readiness of the regular diplomas.

81% of regular diplomas (or evidence of high school graduation) are not ready to even learn a job in ACT's 2013 results. So the diplomas and graduation rates mean nothing if 81% of them are not even ready to be trained for a job. THAT is horrible news because they will be minimum wage kids. Diplomas going to 90% means nothing if 81% of the students with regular diplomas are not even ready to be trained for a job. THAT'S LIKE A POWDER KEG because close to minimum wage jobs are the most affected by robotics making more and more of such poorly qualified high school grads mostly unemployed. But that's only a start. For black students, 97% of those with a regular diploma are not ready. Can you imagine what that will cause? But the excuses for such results make no sense as you will see below.

The statement above that ACT career and college readiness is at ACT 21 is not correct. A student must be at or above each of 4 benchmarks in 4 different subjects to be career and college ready. Those benchmark scores are 18, 21, 22 and 24. Meeting each of four benchmark scores is not the same as meeting their average which is much easier.

At the same time New York state announced its Common Core scores a month ago. They are the 4th best performing state. The results were 30-40%, very poor for all public schools and charter schools. But one chain of charter schools that started in 2006 and have opened 14 schools in Harlem and in other tough areas of New York, with black students in the great majority, delivered scores between 85-95%, way above the others. Now that is some achievement.

It is clear that the low black student performance in many places here can be corrected and can also be made the highest, if the school is managed well and their teaching methodology is borrowed from the best in the world.

This school district is NOT telling the public the truth and is covering up poor performance, but they want more money when we already spend more per student than the top 20 nations in education. In fact in 2011, we became the second highest spender nation per student in the world, producing poor results.

Our school district's results are outrageous.

Written on Fears of TCAP-itation:

Unfortunately, the local education board and superintendent do not tell us the truth.

From being the leader 40 years ago, our country fell to 48th place in high school math and science this year. Within the US, TN also fell to 48th in the same area. The result is that our high school grads are mostly unemployable. 90% of those who enter as freshman, will not be able to get a job.

We are paying in taxes $9500 per student/ per year within KCS. Just multiply that by 12 for 12 grades, and the result is 90% unemployment. I have the backup for all this tragic information at .

Our universities remained the best in the world during all these years. The gap between the knowledge of high school grads and what is required for college work has increased so much that our most needed scientists and engineers have dropped in a big way, paralizing the research and product development that is the life line of any industry.

This is the reason for the emphasis on an increased rigor in testing and the curriculum. The Board and the central management has been and still is doing one of the poorest jobs. Our annual KCS budget is almost half a billion with principal and interest on mortgages that they do not tell you about. Central management is bloated about ten times the normal with good ole boy networks. Teachers are treated like crap and are restricted. Fear rules as a result of gross incompetence.

The Board just approves the huge expense budgets, and there are no goals associated with it that you can measure. How can you achieve anything without a goal? How do you know if you are doing well or not? The public should be able to tell, because THIS is our money we are playing with.

The best measurement of achievement from grade 1 to 12 is the ACT score. Despite all the promises, we have been dropping like a stone. The promises are aplenty to make things look good, while the management incompetence is destroying the future of our kids.

Look at my Web site and the evidence presented. Then decide if I am telling you the honest truth. We have been lied to for too long.

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