Knox County educator and latest YouTube sensation Lauren Hopson laid out her grievances concerning Tennessee’s treatment of teachers at Monday night’s Cleveland Education Association.
Hopson began by saying two of her friends and fellow teachers recently received letters which stated their students’ test scores must increase or they could face termination.
She explained the letters upset her.
“One is a fabulous teacher. It made me angry she received the letter because she didn’t deserve to get one,” Hopson said. “... The other teacher was brought to her knees. She was inconsolable.”
The letters were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Hopson considered her options, prepared her thoughts and addressed the Knox County Board of Education during the public forum. Only a handful of people were present. However, her speech was later uploaded to YouTube and has since received thousands of hits since September.
She said more than 300 teachers attended October’s board meeting. Twenty of the teachers addressed the board over a two-hour period. Each one listed a different grievance.
The show of support was powerful, but Hopson said the only way change will happen is if teachers across the state band together.
Hopson said she has hope for the first time in a long time.
“It is hard to speak up,” Hopson said. “It is hard to speak up after a long day when all you want to do is go home and go to bed. It is hard to speak up when you want to go home and spend time with your family.”
She explained several issues she plans to be speaking up against:
n Teacher’s effectiveness being determined by their students’ test scores.
n Five percent of a teacher’s overall assessment being based on a survey taken by students, especially if the surveys are not developmentally appropriate for the students taking them.
n The PARCC Assessment being completely computer-based, especially when schools do not seem to be properly equipped with the needed technology.
n Schools being treated like businesses.
n Teachers not being treated like professionals.
n Teachers being evaluated by others outside of their field or subject area.
“In order for our voice to be heard, we are going to have to move outside of our associations,” Hopson said. “We are going to have to stick together.”
She encouraged teachers who want to make a change to: review the information and determine their own opinions; critically look at the data presented; keep their facts straight; and be respectful when making their points.
Director of City Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff offered a rebuttal on the use of computers for the PARCC assessment, stating, “Online testing allows for quicker turnaround time on student data. Also, trend analysis shows that student success rates go up with online testing ... Many states have tested online for years; we are just now catching up to reality.”
He encouraged teachers within the city school system who have a problem to speak with him, the administrators or the board.
“Bottom line: Knox County and Cleveland City [school systems] obviously have different cultural issues. What made her video viral was her outspoken thoughts on the superintendent and school board of Knox County,” Ringstaff said.
“We foster a culture of listening and improving teacher morale and support every day. We do not have a system in place that does not allow teachers to express their concerns or issues.”