Harris TV remarks tick off teachers

Betty Bean
Government/Politics columnist

It took Lauren Hopson almost no time to respond to Doug Harris’ remarks on WBIR TV’s “Inside Tennessee” Sunday.

Harris and board chair Mike McMillan were on the morning show with John Becker. By 1 p.m., Hopson had posted an eight-point summary of his remarks on the SPEAK (Students, Parents, Educators Across Knox County) Facebook page. Within a half hour, her post had drawn 25 responses. By 4 p.m., there were 54 – none of them happy with Harris.

Much of the criticism centered on his spirited defense of the SAT-10 test, which Knox County Schools has been giving to kindergarten through second grade students, and which the board voted 6-3 to abolish earlier this month because the new board members and McMillan believe it to be developmentally inappropriate (two of the new members, Amber Rountree and Patti Bounds, have administered the test).

Harris, a fervent supporter of Superintendent James McIntyre, said he voted with the majority on the hope that he could bring the SAT-10 back for reconsideration at a later date. He said he hasn’t been hearing complaints about the test from teachers or parents in his district and pointed to “grade inflation” as a problem that standardized testing is designed to remedy.

Harris is vice chair of the board thanks to a vote from interim board member John Fugate  (not a McIntyre supporter) who explained that he voted for Harris to promote unity on a body that is badly polarized between pro- and anti-McIntyre factions.

Did Fugate’s attempt at diplomacy succeed?

It’s too soon to tell, but his erstwhile allies like Hopson (a third-grade teacher at Halls Elementary School and a leader of the teachers’ revolt) have their doubts.

“This is the second time Doug Harris has bold-faced lied and said he hasn’t heard from parents in his district who oppose the SAT 10 test,” Hopson said. “He said the same thing at a board meeting, but teachers and parents from his district certainly have contacted him. One parent even posted a screen shot on Facebook of her email to him.”

Hopson didn’t spare panelist Don Bosch, who generally supports McIntyre’s education reform agenda, and said he could educate himself by listening to the speech that then-Farragut High School senior Ethan Young delivered to the board last November.

“Go back and listen to Ethan Young’s speech. He connects the dots,” Hopson said. “Some of the standards in math and science are not even as high as the ones we were teaching before. Common Core has nothing to do with higher standards. It has to do with rebranding and with a whole bunch of people making money off it.”

Hopson praised McMillan for saying he found it “odd” that complaints about teachers potentially losing bonus money without SAT-10 data weren’t aired until after the special called meeting to vote on abolishing it and for reminding Harris “… that the supervisors and principals with whom he is so fond of talking work directly for the superintendent.

“Perfect response,” said Hopson.

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