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BOE approves D-B EXCEL agreements, gets testing update

Rick Wagner • Nov 16, 2016 at 9:19 AM

KINGSPORT — The Board of Education and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday night each approved a subordination agreement and a supplemental agreement for the new D-B EXCEL location to be occupied in January.

In addition, the city school board got an update on TNReady and end-of-course testing changes starting this school year, changes that will lead to lower scores and may lead the BOE not to count those test results as part of student grades for the second year in a row.

The board voted 4-0, with member Karen Reed-Wright absent, to approve the subordination and supplemental agreements upon the recommendation of City Attorney Mike Billingsley and Superintendent Lyle Ailshie. Both explained that the subordination agreement was a normal part of such processes but was inadvertently left out of the packet both bodies approved a few months ago. The BMA vote was 6-0 with newly appointed Tom Segelhorst, who replaces the resigned Michele Mitchell, absent.

Cayenne Rental Properties G.P. is developing space in the building connected to the Kingsport City Schools Administrative Support Center, and First Citizens Bank & Trust is doing the financing.

In a nutshell, Billingsley said the subordination agreement says the bank will step into the shoes of the landlord if payments go into default. The school system is using a lease-to-own plan for the new location, in the Press Building adjacent to the KCS headquarters downtown, and plans to buy the entire property from the owner  after the first year as allowed in the lease. Goins Rash Cain Construction Services is building out the formerly vacant space for the virtual/blended learning facility.

Billingsley said technically the KCS would lose the right to buy the building after the first year, but he said the agreements spell out that the school system would be notified if payments are not made by the builder/developer/owner to the bank but that the system could make payments directly to the bank and that notice of lack of payments would come before the bank would take over the property. D-B EXCEL is separating its physical location from the alternative school housed at Cora Cox Academy.

During the work session, the board got a report from Michael Hubbard, director of performance excellence, about the first 2016-17 TNReady and end-of-course scores, which he said should come out soon for individual schools and school districts. They were released recently statewide and showed a drop in scores, which Hubbard said was because the tests are different and more difficult.

The more rigorous tests are designed to be more in line with the ACT college entrance exam, and with any testing change, Hubbard said scores go down the first year. However, the long-term message from the state is that scores will go up, showing students are better prepared for college and the workplace. He said the takeaways for parents include this is a “reset” year, not to be discouraged with the lower scores and that assessment scores will be phased in as part of grades over time.

“This happened a few years ago. There was a reset and scores dropped,” Ailshie said. He said the scores will not be back until right before report cards will be given in January, which Hubbard said means the cards could be delayed or the scores dropped from first semester grades or even second semester ones. The Tennessee Board of Education on second reading in January is to vote on having up to 10 percent of grades come from test scores in high school and 15 percent in grades 3-8. The board may address the issue at its Dec. 1 meeting.

As for the differences between the old tests and ACT, in 2015 state scores statewide showed 60 percent proficiency or better in Algebra I and II, compared to 27 percent in ACT scores. English I, II and III likewise were 61 percent from state scores but only 35 percent in ACT scores. Social studies in grades 3-8 will be a field test for the second year in a row.

Hubbard said the state tests for English will be less grammar and more reading comprehension and citing evidence in texts, while in math, geometry will be added to Algebra I and Algebra II in end-of-course tests, as will calculator-prohibited test sections. The new categories will be 4. mastered, 3. on track to be mastered, 2. approaching mastered and 1. below mastery, compared to the old categories of advanced, proficient, basic and below basic.

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