When Amber Rountree first assumed a seat on the Knox County School Board, the most pressing problem wasn’t too few books, but too many tests.
Representing South Knoxville’s 9th District since 2014, Rountree made it a point to challenge the controversial SAT-10 exam upon her entry to office. An assessment test for children ages kindergarten through second grade, the SAT is not dissimilar to the kind of bubble-in style tests often associated with higher grade levels. In the past, under the leadership of then Superintendent Jim Mcintyre, the Knox County School Board voted time and time again to apply the assessment tests, despite their only being optional by state law. Rountree, along with a coalition of teachers and newly elected board officials, made the end of that test their top priority.
“It really concerned me that it was not developmentally appropriate, so one of my first goals when I joined the school board was to discontinue that practice,” Rountree said of her early efforts on the School Board. “If you know any kindergartners, while they can do some amazing things, to have a child sit for a lengthy amount of time to try and bubble in a bubble sheet for a test is simply not developmentally appropriate.”
More than three years have passed since that battle took place, though Rountree’s work seemingly has no end in sight. A Halls High School Elementary School Librarian for six years before assuming her position on the board, Rountree somehow manages to juggle her governmental work, pursue a Doctors in Literacy at the University of Tennessee while still finding the time to raise two small boys. With an election coming up May 1, Rountree is currently the only candidate for the District 9 seat to turn in a petition, yet her priorities remain anchored in the present, including her ongoing battle with yet another state assessment exam in the form of TNReady.
Encompassing grades three through 12, the state mandated exam has come under fire recently after the Tennessee Department of Education acknowledged that 9,400 tests were scored incorrectly, including tests at three Knox County high schools.
For the past three years, Rountree has introduced resolutions into the Knox County school board asking the state government not to use TN Ready test scores to evaluate teachers or affect student grades, describing the assessment exam as nothing less than an “abject failure.” “I’m not against assessment. What I am for is accurate, useful assessment, not something that is lining the pockets of a testing company,” Rountree said.
Looking forward to another possible term, Rountree has plans for improving the standard of education across the city. Pointing to her past partnerships with The Greater Schools Initiative, she hopes to improve CTE programs, culinary arts and internship opportunities for students across Knox County. She envisions programs that could coincide with the growth of South Knoxville, whether it be partnering potential student internships with one of the area’s many coffee shops or even taking advantage of the opportunities the planned BMX course near South-Doyle Middle School will bring to the students across the region. Asked why she should be reelected, Rountree points to her many efforts to reform standardized testing within Knox County, as well as her more recent involvement in the creation of the new, high-tech South-Doyle High library as proof of her involvement and willingness to contribute to the community.
“In my four years on the board, I have tried to work as a servant leader,” Rountree said of her time in office. “I think I’ve actually managed to get a lot of positive things accomplished. Things that have helped grow and will continue to grow South Knoxville, but have also benefitted every kid in Knox County.”

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