Are computers teachers? Tennessee court might weigh in
Do the rights of Tennessee students to a public education extend into the right to have a teacher, and if so, does a computer program count?
Those questions were posed to a state appeals court Tuesday during oral arguments in a case involving a Nashville student, Toni Jones, that could set a statewide framework defining school districts' obligations to their students.
Jones was a freshman at Pearl-Cohn High School who was pulled out of an algebra class before an end-of-course test and placed into a computer-based credit recovery program, Jones' lawyer, Gary Blackburn, said. He said the student was struggling in the algebra class but had a passing grade.
The appeal stems from a lawsuit Blackburn filed in 2015, alleging the district was padding test scores by moving Jones and others to the other program. Several teachers who spoke out about the testing practices are suing the district in a separate case, saying they were inappropriately reprimanded by the district.
He said precedent set in Tennessee court cases entitled Jones to a teacher, and that due process protections were violated when she was moved into the other class without notice to Jones or her family.
"The slippery slope so to speak is that if a teacher is not essential, then a school system can be offered entirely by computers," he said. "Students can be placed in a gymnasium and put a computer on a desk, and say, here is your teacher. And we're going to have a hall monitor to keep you from acting up. That is basically what happened to Toni Jones. That's not teaching."
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Metro argues that the judges should uphold a prior ruling dismissing the case. In February 2016, Nashville Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle agreed with Metro's argument and dismissed the case.
Blackburn argues in the appeal it should be reopened. The Tennessee Education Are computers teachers? Tennessee court might weigh in: