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Did a School District Retaliate Against a Teacher Who Spoke Out Against a Standardized Test?

"Unreal ... that we have our youngest learners already stressing over a standardized test."

Christina Graham fears her contract to work at an elementary school in the district was not renewed because she spoke out against the administration last year. (Image source: WATE-TV)

Some teachers in Knoxville, Tennessee, are saying their contracts were not renewed for the fall without reason, leading them to speculate it might be in retaliation for what one teacher said against the standardized testing of kindergartners.

Last year, Knox County School teacher Christina Graham spoke at a district meeting against putting kindergartners through the SAT10 test. She also wrote her thoughts on the Students, Parents and Educators Across Knox County blog in October.

Explaining that the SAT10 wasn't used to direct instruction or provide information that the district hadn't already assessed about students, Graham wrote, "I do not think there is one reason why we must use more time testing a child."

Christina Graham fears her contract to work at an elementary school in the district was not renewed because she spoke out against the administration last year. (Image source: WATE-TV)

"Imagine being a 5 year old and sitting in a chair, filling in bubbles for 60 to 90 minutes," Graham continued. "We all know that children have a very limited attention span, yet we give them a test that lasts over an hour. Another issue is the SAT10 test is not aligned to our curriculum or standards. There are things on that test that the kindergartners are not taught. Yet students and teachers are still judged based on that test score.

"Kindergartners are wary of new situations," Graham wrote on the blog. "Sitting them down for so long and putting a high stakes test in front of them is not doing them (or anyone) any good. In kindergarten they are just learning to think, work together, and ask for help. They struggle to make you happy and they are so self conscious and worried about what they know or don’t know. High stakes testing such as the SAT10 stresses them out. It is making them anxious and worried about school. How are we supposed to teach them to love learning if we are putting them in this kind of situation?"

Graham said it was "unreal ... that we have our youngest learners already stressing over a standardized test" and asked "what's the rush?"

Now, Graham told WATE-TV she was "blindsided" at the news that the school district decided to drop her as an employee, not renewing her contract.

The news station doesn't report how many teachers also were "non-renewed" but said a number of them received the same news. It also pointed out that the SAT10 test is not longer given in the school district.

Lauren Hopson, the incoming president of the Knox County Education Association, told WATE that with reasons not being given for non-renewals and acceptable performance otherwise, it can only lead to speculation that people who have spoken out against the administration might be discriminated against.

"Teachers do have a fear of losing their job if they're speaking out, if they are challenging policies," Hopson told the news station.

The news station pointed to a comment about the incident where some said teachers were told their non-renewal was because they didn't "fit the vision" of the school.

Kathy Sims with the school district's human resources department told WATE that it doesn't need to provide a reason for not renewing a contract.

"You can non-renew an employee for any reason or no reason, as long as it's not an illegal reason," Sims said.

The news station noted that the district decides to non-renew some teachers' contracts every year.

Watch WATE's report:

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