Education Association sues Knox Board of Education over test scores

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) has filed a lawsuit against the Knox County Board of Education alleging that using teacher evaluation scores to award teacher bonuses is unconstitutional.

“One of our concerns with the high-stakes use of TVAAS (Tennessee Value Added Assessment System) estimates has come to fruition,” says TEA president Gera Summerford in a release. “It is unacceptable for any teacher to be punished financially or otherwise as a result of unreliable, flawed statistical estimates that can vary years after a student was in that teacher’s classroom,” she says.

The TEA says Knox County teacher Lisa Trout was "unfairly denied" a Knox County APEX bonus "after being misled about how her TVAAS estimate would be calculated."

TEA lawyer Richard Colbert says the district told Trout she would be evaluated based on school-wide scores instead of individual scores, but a clerical error changed her overall score.

“A guidance counselor incorrectly claimed 10 of Ms. Trout’s students for her TVAAS score without her knowledge,” Colbert says. “As a result, Ms. Trout ultimately received a lower TVAAS estimate than she should have and was denied the APEX bonus she had earned.”

In the lawsuit, TEA says the evaluation system is arbitrary and leaves out a large portion of a teacher's student population to estimate effectiveness.

“Ms. Trout’s situation illustrates the fundamental problem with using statistical estimates for high-stakes decisions that affect teacher pay,” Colbert said. “Her case raises great concerns over the constitutionality of such practices.”

TEA says they expect this to be the first of many lawsuits as districts begin to tie test scores and evaluation scores to bonus decisions.

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