The new Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos did not wait long to put her well shod foot into her mouth after touring a DC School that was fraught with controversy the moment she arrived.
And as governing now seems to be by tweeting she of course after a brief highly orchestrated, emphasis on brief and again laden with hostility assessed the Teachers as in "receiving mode." I have no idea what that means as clearly I have not had the highly expensive, highly religious education that Ms. DeVos had. Perhaps that is why I am a Substitute in Tennessee the land of ground zero for Ed reform. I always like to point out that one of our current Senators Lamar Alexander was in fact an Education Secretary himself and that explains that and perhaps why the schools I see first hand are dumps and the average school choice number is 80. Yes 80.
This is the vision of Ms. DeVos. And apparently she can assess that Teachers are hamstrung after a 20 minute visit. Wow she is quite prescient.
My hairdresser's husband wants to be a Teacher. He was in music and during down times substituted in public schools in Kansas where he lived and did this for eight years. He loves kids and Teaching and that is what he wants to do in an alternative setting as he feels that it suits his personality. He has no Bachelor of Arts and has finally figured out how to enroll in one of the many online Universities that enable people to get a "degree." He wants his in English but he is worried about how much reading is involved as he is a slow reader.
So he plans on finishing this and then going into the alternative certification methods they have here, the Urban Scholar or Teach for America. I am sure he will do just fine and be in a public school within two years. I like my hairdresser but to say stupid is being kind, again she is from Arkansas and that is the best I can say, but she cuts my hair well. This is a woman who informed me that she would get lost riding the bus. Okay then. These are the people I meet.
Should I be alarmed or just amazed? I have decided just to laugh as he will fit right into the schools here. I have met few and far Teachers qualified and capable of being in front of a classroom. And while I would applaud a Teacher who said I overcame my own learning disabilities and issues so I could help you do the same I don't actually see that. I see a busload of denial here on a daily basis and that often is beyond the one dropping kids off miles away to schools nowhere near their community and are dilapidated beyond belief, one in the middle of an industrial zone across the street from a Cemetery, the irony is not lost as you will end up in one of those eventually.
I just subbed for a Teacher who had said alternative teaching credential from Missouri. He was featured in the local news as one who became a Fellow, after earning a B.A. in Art, enrolled in this program, worked in an urban school in Clarksville, MO for a year where he received a Masters in unclear designation and in turn a Teaching Certificate. He now works here in Nashville, his second year of Teaching, at an acclaimed High School teaching both Honors and Advanced Placement. Courses designed for high end academic achievers, who have to take standardized tests set up by well established companies and respected by Universities and Colleges across the country. And this man has taught for two years. Really? Was he trained, educated and experienced with this type of demanding curriculum and needs of special students? Yes highly capable students are on the other end of special education and deserve all the right curriculum and staffing that those on the opposite end. Well again this is Nashville and I have seen little to none of that on either side.
The level of Tennessee's education across the board is and always has been low. Some strides have been made as like the rest of the country we are seeing higher graduation rates. Well again in richer well established "counties" but here in Nashville, Davidson County we are again at the bottom of the roster. And what is interesting is that we have far more private academies and charter schools which should artificially inflate that number as if these schools are as full with students as the public schools are or even half the number (public schools here at high school level are well over 1000 in students) then there success would skew the number just a little above that which means that those schools with there elaborate grounds and acclaimed learning are nowhere near as populated in students and achievement. And again the SAT's or other college boards which are measures for any college bound students would be reflected in college enrollment across the state. And nope, not much better there either.
The numbers on private schools are here and some are not available but it does provide an insight into some of the problems as why these schools are part of the problem and not the solution. And with Charters that are this odd hybrid of public and private, true numbers are even more challenging to find. And they don't have to follow any of those federal laws oddly that Betsey DeVos did not know of during her hearing prior to actually getting the job. Where is that possible to get a job, not know the rules or even basic guidelines to perform said job? Oh wait, never mind.
One of the schools on the list, Franklin Road Academy, is next door to a public high school, Overton. It is also next to the most acclaimed private Catholic school, Father Ryan. The three schools are all in a line on Franklin Road. To start at Father Ryan then move to the Academy is something to see to believe and the grounds, buildings and overall physical composure is surreal and from I have been told the classrooms, library and other facilities are first class and first rate. Well at 18K to just walk into Franklin Road Academy for grades 9-12, I would expect nothing less. And again this is a Christian based school with the focus on faith and community and while Father Ryan is Catholic it is very much like many of those I attended in my youth, however this school makes even the most fabled ones in Seattle seem parse in comparison.
I have nothing to say to those who are entering the profession except positive reinforcement. I am not here to stop those from believing they are doing the right thing and want to do as such but I cannot be a part of it as I am ashamed and frankly embarrassed. I am quite clear that this is beyond even my comprehension and willingness to be an enabler in this broken system. It was bad in Seattle and it is bad everywhere but this is something that is beyond just that. It is mired in a historical racism and socieo-economics that have no intent of changing.
The South will not change and it has vested itself in their belief systems to their own detriment. I had coffee the other day and shared with the Barista that I had to volunteer at our one "museum" (actually it is not a museum another issue here) as I needed to be in a positive environment with kids and parents and meet others who are not involved in this system of doom. I have met few Teachers who acknowledge this and those who do are not from here (a proclamation I have found essential to distinguish and somehow excuse/explain/justify oneself) and are near retirement. I understand as when you are young, in debt and just spent years to learn how to do this job only to find that your peer did some type of paid internship and has the same credentials, makes the same salary and teaches the better kids, you have to look to the positive. I am unclear what that is here and with Ms DeVos I actually don't see any of this changing any time soon.
College completion rates in Tennessee unacceptable, report says
While state efforts have helped boost college readiness and access to higher education, college completion rates remain “unacceptably low,” according to a report released Wednesday.
On average, less than 45 percent of students at Tennessee two- and four-year public colleges complete their degrees, according to Complete Tennessee’s “Room to Grow” report.
The low completion rates — Tennessee ranks 38th in the nation in public university graduation rates and 40th in community college graduation rates — could have repercussions for students and employers.
Students who don’t complete their college degrees are more likely to incur debt and have lower salaries and a lower quality of life, said Kenyetta Lovett, executive director of Complete Tennessee, a non-profit focused on increasing postsecondary access and completion.
And as more jobs require college degrees, low completion rates in the state may cause problems for employers, according to the report.
Twenty-eight higher education institutions in Tennessee, most of them community colleges, do not graduate more than half of students in a timely matter, the report says.
College completion rates are even lower for racial minorities and low-income students.
African-American students had a much lower college completion rate compared to white students and Hispanic students.
Just one in 20 African American full-time students at Tennessee community colleges graduates on time. At public universities and the University of Tennessee system, less than 20 percent of black students graduate within three years.
"I've been around the numbers so they don't surprise me at all," Lovett said. "When I tell community members about say, completion rates of African Americans, you see a look of horror on their face about the reality of it."
Lovett added: “We're starting to realize that income and poverty rates have a lot to do with the success of a student in the long-term. For Tennessee that's very concerning because we have a lot of first generation students obviously,” he said.
Still, there are "reasons to hope," according to the report.
The state already has several programs in place, like Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise, aimed to increase student readiness for college and increase access to college.
At the K-12 level, the Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support program aims to reduce the need for remedial coursework for new freshmen.
The conversation around completion rates needs to extend beyond higher education institutions, Lovett said.
Elected officials, non-profits and especially the business and industry sector need to engage in the conversation, he said. Conversations about transit, financial counseling and academic counseling could also help address the problem, he said.
“You have to cast a wider net of players to really help with this effort,” Lovett said. “I hope higher education really embraces what we’re trying to say – a community driven-support and change in culture in Tennessee around completion is our best option to sustain it.”