published Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Hamilton County, Tennessee schools falling behind

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    East Ridge High School students begin their weekend leaving school in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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2011-12 AYP Results
2011-12 AYP Results

Fewer than half of Hamilton County schools earned “good standing” status under federal benchmarks this year, according to state data released Friday.

And for the first time, the district itself was identified as “high priority,” putting the system at risk of sanctions if reading and math scores don’t improve.

Many local schools failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act because state standards were raised to be more in line with national standards.

“It’s an unrealistic expectation right now,” said Kirk Kelly, director of testing and accountability for Hamilton County Schools. “We now have true, honest standards. Making a 20-point gain is tough to do in math.”

On Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told reporters that only about half of Tennessee schools made AYP.

Haslam also said Tennessee is seeking a waiver to use its own revamped education standards to measure schools instead of those mandated by No Child Left Behind.

The federal standards no longer serve the interest of education reform in Tennessee, Haslam said.

The governor said during a teleconference that he once preferred overhauling No Child Left Behind, “but indications out of Washington are that that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.”

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled failures next year if the federal regulations aren’t changed.


In Hamilton County, 13 schools are in “target” status, which means they missed AYP goals this year, and 19 schools are listed as high priority. Last year, 16 schools made that list.

Hamilton County is among several metro school districts, including Memphis, Knox County and Davidson County, that state officials identified as “high priority.”

Kelly said public school students improved 4 percentage points in reading and language arts, and 7 percentage points in math proficiency.

Kelly said six schools on the high priority list — Central High School, East Ridge Middle School, Lookout Valley Middle/High School, Rivermont Elementary, Red Bank High School and Soddy-Daisy High School — are on track to get back in good standing next year because they made gains in math and reading scores this year.

Schools have to miss AYP two years in a row to make the high priority school list and then make AYP two years in a row to get off the list.

Still, tests aren’t everything and don’t necessarily measure the level of education in local schools, one Hamilton County Board of Education member said Friday.

“We just need to be patient and give them time to get things done,” said Joe Galloway, who taught for 35 years at Lookout Valley before being elected to the school board last year.

“It’s hard for kids to make leaps and bounds on stuff like that. I know we have a lot of dedicated teachers in our system. I really think things will be on the upswing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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SavartiTN said...

Yep, give them time. Sure.

July 30, 2011 at 12:54 a.m.
Selah said...

We've already dumb down requirements for school superintendent so what's the problem with dumbing down requirements for students? Of course with the approval of the Tenn. State Dept. of Education which is ranked 42nd out of 50 states. Go Tennessee!!!

July 30, 2011 at 2:24 a.m.
mymy said...

With a broken society it will never be fixed. Problems: no parenting, Fed intervention, union, etc. No amount of money will fix it.

This country has lost it's way.

July 30, 2011 at 7:18 a.m.
Oz said...

You cannot raise standards without a foundation to build on. If children don't know the concepts of the old standards and the standards are raised. They are doomed for failure.

We have dumbed down parents believing children don't need homework. They can't or refuse to assist their children with homework. Teachers cannot spend all day with a child making sure they understand something. The curriculum is full. They have to keeep moving. If your child does not get it in class. It is YOUR responsibilty.

If there is one child in the classroom constantly misbehaving it ruins the classroom time for every child. Teachers are no longer allowed to discipline a child and they know it. It is not uncommon for a teacher to spend 6 hours a week trying discipline one child. That is 24 hours a month in lost instruction time. Discipline needs to be a priority!

July 30, 2011 at 8:27 a.m.
rolando said...

"U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled failures next year if the federal regulations aren’t changed."

Spoken like a true Democrat.

If "they" [read "any group"] can't meet the standards, lower the bar so they can. Now that is really going to help...sorta kinda like relaxing standards of admission or giving extra points for "race" or "ethnicity". Because, as we all know, those minorities can't make it on their own...or so numbn--ts Duncan would have us believe.

July 30, 2011 at 9 a.m.
Oz said...

We should eliminate the the U.S. Department of Education and Head Start. Both are failures and would help the budget.

July 30, 2011 at 9:09 a.m.
rosebud said...

What? Hamilton County schools declined under the leadership of Jim Scales? Shocking. Just shocking. I can't wait for Harry Austin's editorial about this.

July 30, 2011 at 9:16 a.m.
nowfedup said...

The solution is painfully obvious as is done with most serious issues that are erroding our world class competitiveness. A. Do not keep the standards, simply lower them and more pass. Works for elections, why not for students. B. Run education based upon elected trolling for votes, cut budgets "to save the future debt for our kids" which will result in dumber kids with no future. C. Cut more budget funds and give more to business so developers and related will get even more rich, who will then send more to campaign funds. D. Absolve parents from any responsibility, participation as they know more about pro sports stats then kids educational stats. E. Dare to cut as much from school sports as is cut from labs and hi tech side. Try radical idea of education is to learn, prepare for future, not college or pro sports. F. Ask, how come "ole coach" is often highest paid on staff, and stop firing coaches for :Losing season" as their job is to teach physical fitness first-sports-sportsmanship, wining is secondary. G. Reality check is USA 25th among industrial nations in education, so copy what nrs 1-5 are doing. Maybe even expand school attendance and start to honor the 4.0 students more then sports students. H. Raise the standards and enforce them so we graduate functionally literate students, even teach, math, economics, finance, and many will shout about it, but what used to be called "home economics" to males/females, so they have idea of how to run a home, cooking to budgets to credit to finances, as most do not have even remote clue now days. Last, just care that no nation can afford to have 1/3 HS drop out rate and remain world class, one failing student is to many. Take the politics out of education, make schools learning centers not targets for political and religious battle grounds. Note for the not well informed, sorry anti union types, but states with unionized teachers are at the top of scores, seems when political types cannot play at education, the professionals in teaching do a very good unionized job. But now days killing off last of unions and cutting education seems to be the good thing to do, why, well the dumbed down buy into such things with little efforts and are living proof the dumber the buyers the easier the sell. 25th in world folks, and slipping.

July 30, 2011 at 10:25 a.m.
nucanuck said...

If the school board is a representative sample, then one might easily conclude that the service area suffers from a weak gene pool.

Maybe the test scores have actually maxed out, based on ability. Half of the world is below average.

July 30, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

Thank you Dr. Scales!!! You were a true educator! NOT!!!

July 30, 2011 at 11:25 a.m.
khargis said...

The removal of corporal punishment from schools is a large portion of the problem. Teachers (and principals) need to use the paddle, starting in kindergarten, as the primary form of punishment. Children must be trained to respect the authority of the teacher, before they can be taught anything. State law already allows for corporal punishment. Perhaps it should be changed to specifically direct it.

49-6-4103. Corporal punishment.

Any teacher or school principal may use corporal punishment in a reasonable manner against any pupil for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public schools.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-4103

July 30, 2011 at 11:28 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

I am an educator, and I can't do any better than nowfedup and oz above. Bravo!

khargis, the paddle is not the answer. Parents must respect the authority of the school administration and teachers 100%, and back them 100%. Now schools must use police to handle everything, because parents back their kids in the face of disciplinary action.

Get rid of NCLB, get rid of subject-area standardized testing. Test math and reading in primary school, and provide support to those kids that lag behind. Put them with your strongest and most experienced teachers in a very low student to teacher ratio environment. In high school, if a kid disrupts class, make the parent attend with him/her for awhile. Wanna bet there will be hell to pay at home if mom or dad is inconvenienced by their baby's bad behavior?

July 30, 2011 at 11:49 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

Can anyone now seriously claim that Scales DIDN'T need to go?

July 30, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.
nucanuck said...


I received a daily dose of corporal punishment, even once in front of the student body, and it never affected my out-of-control behavior. You may want to re-think your premis. One size does not fit all, or even many.

July 30, 2011 at 12:08 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

Oz & nowfedup....YOU ARE SOOOO RIGHT!!!

We have dumbed down schools SO much that now the kids can't even learn the "basics"....

It all started when the liberals took discipline out of schools thereby tying teachers/principals hands and with lazy lazy parents!!!

chet123...where are you??? What excuses can you offer now as to WHY Dr Scales was let go? I know you've got some "doozies" for us...

(chet...I hope you're not sick or anything...we haven't heard from you in days now...what gives?)

July 30, 2011 at 12:21 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

It all started when the liberals took discipline out of schools

Liberals took discipline out of schools? What's your evidence? It started when parents stopped believing that their kids could misbehave, and started claiming that schools were picking on them.

July 30, 2011 at 12:27 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

There are SEVERAL black kids at McCallie, Baylor, GPS,Chatt. Christian and Silverdale and they are doing well...BECAUSE they are made to do homework and have supportive parents. If the kids are failing they go to afterschool studies by teachers or to summer school. They are treated the same as any white kid who is having the same problem. Discipline problems are warned and then kicked out if they don't or white.

It should be the same for public schools...and it used to be before the liberals spoke up...and government listened...

July 30, 2011 at 12:34 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

It should be the same for public schools...and it used to be before the liberals spoke up...and government listened...

Evidence? Where did kids go when they were kicked out? (before liberals, as you claim)

July 30, 2011 at 12:49 p.m.
5v5 said...

Where is the County Commissioners with their praises for Ricky for the Schools falling behind with his face of the front page for his work in the failures.....

But here you got Dr. Kirk Kelly, the Director of Testing and Accountability for HCDE, a Black Man whose the face of failing schools in the district other than Soddies hair dresser Rhonda & the lower standard bearer Ricky M.Ed. (Not even an Ed.S.)

July 30, 2011 at 12:52 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

Psychologists, social workers, any liberal representive/congressman/senator/US Dept of Education/Head Start...all of these contributided to the "dumb down" effect thereby triggering this mess we are now in with "bad" schools...

My boys went to school in late 60's--early 70' oldest son was at McBrien Elem. when an elderly black teacher was FORCED (2 yrs til retirement) on McBrien for the 4th grade...she had no reason to teach as she was on her way out. She was by far the single worst teacher he ever homework, no discipline...he said she "read a book" the whole time and the class played...The 5th grade teacher he got said there was nothing the school could have done about it and SHE got all the ones that passed. She worked wonders with my son and others...he had homework and didn't "play" in her class...he knew better.

July 30, 2011 at 12:54 p.m.
fedup350 said...

5v5, how can you blame Rhonda Thurman and Rick Smith? What do you have to say about Dr. Scales? Typical that you would make excuses for the black people involved and even omit the head man repossible for the last few years all together and then blame the white people that you can. In your ingnorance can you even name the other school board members? Typical racsist remarks. Blame the whites and make excuses for the blacks.

July 30, 2011 at 1:05 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

Ikeithlu...They went to another public school or if their parents could afford it to a private boarding school...

This was in the day (late 50's-early 60's) when public High Schools had to accept any student that lived in the county...until he (usually a boy) caused a problem there...I know because my (ex) went to City then Central...where he got hit by many erasers in the head and paddled by the principal...I'm talking HS not Elem. here.

AND City was full of boys from Baylor and McCallie who were kicked out for failing grades or discipline problems...Heck,I even dated some of them...while they were at B or M and later at City...(NOT the BAD ones tho...Mom would not allow that).

Do you think kids this day can be kicked out for failing grades and discipline problems in public HS now? NO! They get suspended and then they're right back in after 3 days...They get kicked out ONLY if they bring guns/knives to school...

July 30, 2011 at 1:11 p.m.
friend said...

Our county schools were great until they merged with city. NCLB lets kids from failing schools come to non-failing. Then the non-failing end up failing. Why not fix the failing schools and leave the non-failing alone. TCAP is a bunch of crap. Some kids are not good test takers, even though they may be honor roll students.

July 30, 2011 at 1:21 p.m.
5v5 said...


you are to blame ,as well as, Hamilton County Commissioners, Thurman, Baker, Evatt, Wilson, Mosley, Testerman, Ricks, Fairchild, and Galloway.

You write as if you are a TEA Party supporter.....that's your ingnorance

July 30, 2011 at 1:29 p.m.
rolando said...

"Where did kids go when they were kicked out?"

Who cared where they went so long as it was somewhere was daddy's and mommie's problem at that point.

They want to come back? Let them keep their nose clean and try next year.

In the meantime, the well-behaved students have a chance to actually learn something.

July 30, 2011 at 1:34 p.m.
rolando said...

5v5 -- Crying "racism" and playing the racist card is a Dimocrat trait, not that of the TEA Party.

July 30, 2011 at 1:39 p.m.
fedup350 said...

5v5, I bet you had to look them up. You know you did. Again, what do you have to say about the job that Scales did? It was on his watch. It is his grades. You have nothing to say. You just bring up the Tea Party. You only make a lot of noise and blame the white man for the failures of blacks, Take responsibilty for your race and hold them to a higher standard instead of making excuses and blaming someone else. I bet you are chet123 writing incognito. So 5v5 I would say that you are the ignorant simple minded one here. One more time...what do you have to say about Scales now? Let me guess..he was hampered by the white man. You will never get it. You will live your life as the perpetual victim, never taking responsibity for your self or your own failures. You are a sad and pitiful person.

July 30, 2011 at 1:55 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

Eastridge8, all you are offering is anecdotes. Yet you are willing to put the blame for school failure at the feet of liberals. You have no evidence to support what you say. Instead of blaming one group of a particular political persuasion, how about offering up some solutions?

July 30, 2011 at 2:09 p.m.
fairmon said...

Too many in the central off cie soaking up money with teachers not being supported or paid as they shouold be. The idea is to teach children in a way that test results meet the criteria.

Carter established the department of education which has taken on a life of it's own with growing cost and intervention in local schools. scholarships and grants are out of control. It is one of many departments that should be eliminated. Education is a local and state issue.

July 30, 2011 at 3:13 p.m.
Humphrey said...

Khargis your point if foolish. Hamilton County schools allow corporal punishment. You have no point.

July 30, 2011 at 4:08 p.m.
Selah said...

I love the way everyone posts these comments with biases and prejudice. If we took a vote, I wonder how many of you have stepped foot in a school building and in a classroom on a regular or long term basis? I wonder if you've visited and really talked to the workers and leaders at all schools rural, surburban, and innner city to see what their true thoughts are. Most may be scared to voice the truth but if the truth ever really came out...I wonder. Will Scales take the fall for Tennesee also being 42nd among 50 states? If any qualified candidate was able to come here, with full authority to do his/her assigned job then and only then will Schools turn around. Any fully supported superintendent/administrator will take on the juvenile courts and DCS services as well for the lack of accountability of parents.

Why should a parent continue to receive services and support from the govt. when they aren't making their children attend school regularly and respect teachers? Why? Why should parents be allowed to keep their children when they are neglected and truant from school year after year after year...Where is the accountability for the system and parents? Or is there a more secret oppression going on here?

If inner city and rural schools are taken seriously then the students will blow the tops off of all students in Hamilton Co. Under the right support and conditions these childre DO score off the charts. A proven school for these children the Harlem's Children's Zone. Geoffrey Canada has basically taken poor, inner city youth and proven they CAN and DO LEARN given the right leaders and support. Mr. Canada's students outshine ALL students across the United States (public and private). We will either pay now for the children to be educated or pay later when the costs are MUCH HIGHER for taxpayers. "We the People" choose everyday by remaining silent to the injustices taken place amongst our most valuable resources: CHILDREN

The first sign of the decline of a nation is how well they take care of the CHILDREN. How is Tennessee doing? How is the United States?

July 30, 2011 at 4:17 p.m.
Humphrey said...

Look at the north georgia schools. Both high schools in the Walker Co. district are failing (Gordan Lee passes, but is a separate district). Dade County Ga., 3 out of 4 schools fail. All three high Schools in Walker Co. fail (ft. O, Ringgold). Murray Co. high school fails. Look at how many failing schools are in Rhonda Thurman's district. Soddy-Daisy high school is not in the city.

July 30, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.
Humphrey said...

We know perfectly well how to improve education, from a large scientific research study that was carried out right here in the state of Tennessee. Read about project star. Smaller class sizes and better teacher training. It is as plain and clear as it can be. But we don't do it. We don't do it because of the cost. Plain and simple. We act like we don't know it, but we do.

July 30, 2011 at 5:06 p.m.

Listen to all the excuses. Almost 40 posts of one excuse after another. Why do the students at the 3 private schools in Chattanooga do so well and those in public school are typically well below average?

Read the posts, folks!

July 30, 2011 at 5:54 p.m.
fedup350 said...

You are exactly right on a couple things Selah. I think the main reason for the failure of some schools is the lack of parental involvment. I agree with you too that it is the parents that should be held accountable as well as the school system. The answer isnt more money poured into the system, It is money used more wisely, less administrators and some type of mandatory paticipation by the parents, especially if they are sucking money off the taxpayers with welfare, food stamps and subsidized housing.. Dr. Scales and his School Board supporters wasted way too much money. They spent it like drunken sailors instead of wisely. Even now Linda Mosely wants to hire another public relations person at $80,000. The last one, Danielle Clark, made that and all she ever had to say was "no comment". Then they gave themselves a back door pension for life for a part time job. I am saying that the biggest problem for the Hamilton County School system was the supporters of Register and Scales on the school board. Every year they asked for more money. "It is for the kids" they said. Then they wasted it and asked for more the next year. I am glad Rick Smith started by cutting the fat. It should have been done years ago.

July 30, 2011 at 5:58 p.m.
5v5 said...


"I am glad Rick Smith started by cutting the fat" Hell he has been part of the fat for years and now all of the soddy people believe that ricky is the answer. All the young people of Hamilton County will be the victims of the this train wreck and that for sure is a drunken sailors operation.

Smaller class sizes and better teacher training for sure is a positive direction for this failing schools and also require parents to put in 30 hours a year in their childs school. I have been a teacher for 17 years and this whole event and the untold story is a DAMN low dirty shame. Ricky should of left with Jesse Register, Lonita Davidson, Fred Carr, Joyce Hardaway, and Wayne Starr. I knew them all and I have been in education for 25 years w/Ed.S. now at UTK.

July 30, 2011 at 6:56 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

"Why do the students at the 3 private schools in Chattanooga do so well and those in public school are typically well below average?"

Really? You don't know the difference?

  1. Private schools spend significantly more money per student than HCDE. How much is tuition at Baylor - the cheapest of the big three - now? HCDE spends a third of that.

  2. That extra money funds things like smaller class sizes - the average class size at a private school is 16, at HCDE the class average is close to double that!

  3. Private schools do not accept students who are significantly below grade level, students with learning disabilities, or those with documented behavioral problems. HCDE is legally obligated to accept all students regardless of disability or behavior. It's much easier to get ahead if you don't have to deal with those that start far behind.

  4. Private schools can remove any student at any time. If little Johnny tells his math teacher to f-off when she scolds him for not having his homework for the fifth time in three weeks, little Johnny may find himself expelled. When that happens at a public school, Johnny MIGHT get suspended (no ISS because school's can't afford an ISS monitor anymore) where he goes home for three days and plays video games and watches TV, comes back, and has 10 days to complete all his missed work for full credit.

  5. Private schools demand parent involvement. When the principal calls to talk about little Johnny's outburst and mom says, "Well why'd she give him homework two nights a week. Doesn't she know he's on the baseball team and we have church and math is hard and he has ADHD and excuse, excuse, excuse..." the private school principal might decide little Johnny isn't really worth it. The public school principal is now worried that she's going to complain to central office where someone who hasn't been in a classroom for 10+ years, if at all, will decide to let little Johnny off with a warning and override his suspension.

  6. Private schools are not subject to the ridiculous demands of state and federal testing requirements. Ask any public school teacher and they will tell you that NCLB has brought so much focus on test scores, that we've lost these great things like teachable moments. We can't stop to focus on creativity, critical thinking skills, or deep research and analysis because come April, everyone's got to have everything covered so the magical test can tell you if the teacher has done a decent job.

There are numerous differences between the rights of parents and students at a private vs. a public school. In the private school, teachers have much more support, greater freedom over curriculum, and more respect. Administrators have the authority to run their schools as they see fit, establish and enforce strict discipline, and remove troubled or failing students. Parents and students are expected to participate and focus on learning. Public school is an entirely different story.

July 30, 2011 at 6:57 p.m.
nucanuck said...

A great education costs money, much more than Hamilton County is willing to spend. If you want a good education for your kids, send them to private school or teach them at home. Sure, a few self-motivated kids will will come through the public system able to compete, but a high percentage will not have the skills for success in today's world.

Sadly, the US is falling further behind every day. A country that falls behind academically is destined fall behind economically.

By not investing nearly enough money and energy into education at the local level, we ensure that we will continue the decline that has been underway for some time.

Higher taxes for education or a failing system, which will it be?

I'm afraid we already know the answer.

July 30, 2011 at 7:08 p.m.
rolando said...

lkeithlu, you said to eastridge8, "Yet you are willing to put the blame for school failure at the feet of liberals. You have no evidence to support what you say." Yet in an earlier post, you said, "[Misbehavior] started when parents stopped believing that their kids could misbehave, and started claiming that schools were picking on them."

So it is OK if you give us your opinion [correct as it may be] without supporting evidence but eastridge8 can't [as correct as hers may be]?

Hm-m-m. Sounds like a liberal's double standard there...

July 30, 2011 at 7:46 p.m.
Oz said...

AlmostAmanda... Excellent post.

Students in private schools have more homework in one night than most public school students choose to do in a week. Plus the homework started in the first grade. My children averaged at least 3 hours and as much as 6 hours of homework every night from the 1st grade through the 12th. They played numerous sports too. No excuses were accepted for not having their homework done and they were not given chances to make it up. It was due on the due date. No exceptions to the rule. They learned responsiblity and they learned about work ethic. They did not go to college taking remedial classes and they finished in 4 years.

July 30, 2011 at 7:49 p.m.
rolando said...

AlmostAmanda, Humphrey said all that and more in one short paragraph in the post just before HigerLevel's - the one you cited..

[Good post, by the way, Humph].

Doing what is needed costs money. That is what makes the Big Three here so much better. That and selective enrollment with expulsion for the slackers. Just doing that last would boost our test scores.

We all know that; yet the Dept of Failed-Ed pays by the student and that guarantees our public schools keep the boneheads on board. Somebody's got to pay all that admin overhead, right?

July 30, 2011 at 7:59 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

I see a pattern here. The educators in these posts blame the parents. The parents blame the educators. Sort of like those folks in Washington. As long as people are pointing fingers, the problems don't get solved.

I do agree that parents need to teach their children to respect not just their teachers but everyone. I have seen a lot of disrespect out of and my children's high school. On the other side of that, I have seen teachers scream at students just because that is how they are. Or run out of the class crying. Or suspending a student for saying a curse word under their breath and then calling a student a smart ass in front of the class. I've seen athletes who don't even attend class graduate. All of this contributes to the failure of the children to achieve.

However, I disagree that parents need to be overly involved with the school. The job of the educators is to educate our children. This is what they are paid to do. I think it is absurd to think that the state should require children to attend school, budget to pay the school boards but think that parents are supposed to teach their children the basics and keep them up to date. If that's the case, then we could save the state and local government a lot of money by abolishing the attendance requirement and make it a requirement that the parents educate their children. I am not sure that it would produce any worse results but maybe my property taxes would be reduced.

When I attended school (I am in my 50s), my parents had very little involvement in my time at school. They came to whatever program that I was in. They bought my school supplies. They signed my report cards. But that is where it ended. And it was the same with my friends. Back then, it was the teachers job to educate us and my parents job to raise us and teach us about religion. I graduated from the Hamilton County School system with an IQ high enough to join MENSA. Most of my peers were successful.

So, this makes me question, what, really has changed? Is it the expectations of the students? The parents? The teachers? Whatever the answer is, I am sure that it isn't just the parents fault.

July 30, 2011 at 9:15 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

I would like to also say that it isn't about how much a school system spends per student. Sure, systems like Oak Ridge spend a lot more ($11,000) compared to Hamilton Co ($9,100) per student and they do have the highest ACT averages (24) BUT Alcoa ($10,100) and Maryville ($9,400) spend close to the same as Hamilton Co. and have much higher scores (21.5 and 23.5 average, respectively). Then there is Williamson Co who spends LESS ($7,800 per student) than Hamilton Co. but ranks an average ACT of 22.7. Or Rutherford Co. who spends $7,700 per student but their ACT averages 20.6 compared to our 19.1. My numbers are taken from the Tennessee Department of Education website.

It seems that it is NOT the money spent per student. I don't think that the parents are necessarily more involved in those systems.

I need to hear a better argument of why our school system is failing than the ones posted by others on here.

July 30, 2011 at 9:51 p.m.
Humphrey said...

I don't think that there is just one answer SavartiTN. Money per student is part of it. Class size part of it. Parents are a big part of it - in a lot of ways: how much time they spend with homework, what their expectations are, and so on. Teachers are a big part of it. Peers are part of it (the thing about the "big 3" - not just class sizes, but the PEERS value learning and success, it is expected by the PEERS. In many public schools being smart is downgraded by the PEERS.). Administrators are part of it. Heck, putting too much focus on the standardized tests is part of it. The expectations we hold for the kids is part of it. The neighborhoods and the sort of expectations the community holds. It is a complex thing with not just a single answer. Take one part of this, two parts that, a little of the other thing and throw it in the blender. And to make it more complicated, what works best for one kid isn't the thing that always works best for another, what works best for one school, and so on.

July 30, 2011 at 10:26 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Savarti, I think there is plenty of blame to go around for sure - and lots of room for change.

There are teachers who need more training and others that simply need to go. From my personal experience, too many scoot by through forming friendships with administration, or are related to people at central office, or make a point to stick with lazy administrators who won't notice how weak they are.

There are administrators who need to be retrained and/or need to go. I've seen a few who spent more time trying to weasel their way into central office than paying attention to what goes on in their schools. They don't return calls to parents or respond to teachers' e-mails. Others micromanage teachers and assume that what works in kindergarten also works in fifth grade because they only spent three years in a classroom before they were promoted to vice principal and don't know any better.

I've personally dealt with parents who really don't deserve the title. Some make endless excuses for their child's laziness or poor behavior. They threaten lawsuits when they run to central office to get their baby out of trouble or get well-deserved grades changed. Others don't return phone calls, e-mails, and notes home indicating that their child may have a serious problem (such as dyslexia) that is preventing their hard-working child from learning. I've had several tell me that they couldn't possibly have a child with a disability, and refuse to sign consent for their child to be tested. That's not even getting started on the ones whose neglect and abuse make learning next to impossible for their kids.

There are also students who simply don't care. They see school as their social hour, and think nothing of disrupting class because they know the consequences will be minimal at best. The story of little Johnny I mentioned in an earlier post happened to a colleague a few years ago. Both mom and son were gems. Other students make no effort to learn anything, they don't participate in class, don't ask questions, don't do homework, don't ask for help - even in private - and then blame the teacher when they don't make straight A's. I've seen a lot of kids in the past few years who think that they should get rewarded for showing up rather than for hard work. And too many parents believe it as well.

Central office is also part of the problem. Too often they don't back up principals and teachers and cave to parents who demand special treatment. They allow too many people who've never been teachers to issue directives and mandates as to how teachers should use their class time, then blame teachers when their cookie cutter solutions don't work. In my opinion, a lot of money is wasted on silly things (Character Education posters, useless "professional development") and too many coordinators and supervisors. A lot of what should be going to classrooms goes to pay salaries for people who seem to do nothing.

July 30, 2011 at 10:38 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

And let's not forget the taxpayers. As I said before, too many people want a top notch education for bargain basement prices. It is simply not feasible in a system where every child - regardless of ability or behavior - is entitled to attend.

We're all going to have to do a lot better if we want things to improve. We have to hold ourselves - and each other - to higher standards.

July 30, 2011 at 10:38 p.m.
Oz said...

SavartiTn said, I have seen teachers scream at students just because that is how they are. Or run out of the class crying. Or suspending a student for saying a curse word under their breath and then calling a student a smart ass in front of the class. I've seen athletes who don't even attend class graduate. All of this contributes to the failure of the children to achieve.

You sat in a class and witnessed these events?

July 30, 2011 at 10:48 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

I can tell you that as an educator my authority in my classroom is respected. I don't have a situation where parents question my authority. My students behave because if they don't, they are removed from class. No police are needed. As a result I get full cooperation from parents. I am fair, but I expect good behavior appropriate for the age of my students. So I spend NO time managing classroom behavior, and ALL my time teaching.

Why do I think this is important? Public school teachers tell me they don't have this. They spend too much time trying to control kids in classes of 30+ (my largest is 16) and have few options if a student is unruly. Straight from the front line. What is the solution? Smaller classes will help, but conditions that promote a safe and effective learning environment are key, and in order to get that you need the support of parents. ALL parents. No rolando, I am not pulling this out of the ether; I have been in the business long enough to know what can disrupt classroom environments, and how public schools are hamstrung. I also know this from school resource officers. Unless you are a teacher, there is no way you could possibly understand this. Until you have spent a few years in front of real, breathing, teens with real issues, where your job is to teach a particular subject and hold them accountable to that subject, your opinion on this doesn't hold the same weight.

Savarti, I am not endorsing helicopter parents. However, when I was in school, I was punished again at home if I got in trouble at school. THAT is parental support that seems to be lacking in some families.

July 30, 2011 at 10:52 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

Ditto on the punishment for me at home if I got in trouble at school. But my parents still didn't intervene in school matters.

My mother worked at the school board here for years. She also worked in one of the high schools. She has said many times that education started going downhill when the teachers union really kicked up in the 1980s. She often told of how the teachers would sit in the lounge talking derisively about students in their classes. Complain about having to grade homework. Gripe about their benefits. This attitude will not garner the respect that they think that they deserve. It wasn't working then. It sure isn't working now. My mother would tell them, "If not for these students, you would not have a job."

I've questioned teachers who seem to have low expectations of my children. I've asked that they please give them homework. The only homework the kids ever have is the work that I give them myself to try to keep them on top of the game. The biggest problem that my children have is that, since the teachers don't expect much of them, why should they try any harder? It doesn't matter what I demand of them.

AlmostAmanda, I agree with about everything you said. The question now is "what can everyone do to change the situation?"

Here's food for thought. Those children who aren't achieving now may be dictating how the political climate goes in a few years. The aging population will be at their mercy. And so on. It's like we are heading for another Dark Ages.

July 30, 2011 at 11:47 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

I can't really speak to your mother's experiences. I know the people you are talking about and they are as much of a pain now as I'm sure they were then. The ones I know may have been involved in the union then, but now they are too cheap to be a part of it now.

In fairness to teachers though, grading homework does suck - especially since we've quit teaching handwriting. :) The handwriting is atrocious and makes it so much harder since I don't do multiple choice or fill in the blank stuff. It is truly my least favorite part of the job. At my school, student aides are not allowed to grade work due to privacy issues, and I teach well over 115 students a year, so it can get quite tedious. That being said, the work I assign my students is meaningful, so I suck it up and grade it all. They need the practice, deserve the feedback, and it provides an additional clue as to who needs more help. Of course, I've been cussed out by parents and students alike for giving homework twice a week, giving homework to students based on their level of ability, and unapologetically giving them a zero if they refuse to do their work. I figure that if I'm going to make someone mad, I'll make them mad for working too hard rather than not hard enough.

As for what can change the situation, I think we have to begin with a change in attitude and a change in priorities. We have to spend our money in the right places, we have to give all stakeholders a voice, then hold all stakeholders accountable for the results. The recent law that makes retention mandatory for children who fail the reading portion of the TCAP in third grade is a step in the right direction. The accountability is shared among the administration, teacher, parents, and student - and there is no chance of central office overriding the retention if parents complain. Now we just have to make sure we don't dumb down the standards or testing so that we know all kids aren't moving to the next grade without having adequately master the appropriate skills. Kids shouldn't come to middle school not knowing their times tables, reading below grade level, not knowing basic grammar and mechanics, etc. It happens every year. If we build the appropriate foundation in elementary school, it all comes together much easier in middle and high school. That's not everything, but it's a start.

Uugh, I get started and just can't stop. Sorry for the novellas, guys.

July 31, 2011 at 12:47 a.m.
SavartiTN said...

Good suggestions, AlmostAmanda! That's what I was after...give them something to think about that is constructive.

July 31, 2011 at 12:51 a.m.
Selah said...

fedup350...Let's be clear ...what fat was really eliminated from the HCDE budget? If you notice...there was NO names or positions given with the cuts for central office. For all we know he could have cut 5 secretaries and 5 computer techs. Where are the big salary cuts with name, salary saved and positions listed? Why are people still working at Central Office who have over 30 yrs. and/or almost 20 or more years with little or no effectiveness? Believe me when you just list 10 this and 5 that without clear could mean anything. I am sure it is not even close to what really needs to take place at the BIG HOUSE. Politics as usual...this administration will not be any different.

If you think education is going to change, then look at what our current super has done with the past 20 plus years he has been in the system. Ask his students what kind of teacher he was and ask his co workers what kind of job he has been doing...Heck ask Register and Scales...let the truth come out. Let them tell of all the great ideas and reforms he proposed yet they failed to use. Where is the support except from the fab 5 who just want a sense of control. Be careful what you ask for...

July 31, 2011 at 1:15 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Sorry for the rant, guys, but it seems that there are folks who, just because they ave been to school, think that teaching is somehow an easy profession and anyone can do it. I admit the problems are multiple; poor parenting, classes too large, one-size-fits-all curriculum, top-heavy administration, poorly trained teachers. I know what conditions make for successful teachers, and I know what conditions make teaching discouraging, even impossible. The problem is not unions-they were formed to correct an earlier problem. The problem is not liberals-they were trying to solve problems of pedagogy and apply what is now known about cognitive development. The problem is not teachers-they are not valued, supported, held accountable or paid in a way to attract the very best. The problem is all of these and more.

Losing my patience here means it's time for another self-imposed hiatus. See ya in 6 weeks or so.

July 31, 2011 at 7:47 a.m.
macropetala8 said...

. On the other side of that, I have seen teachers scream at students just because that is how they are. Or run out of the class crying. Or suspending a student for saying a curse word under their breath and then calling a student a smart ass in front of the class. I've seen athletes who don't even attend class graduate. All of this contributes to the failure of the children to achieve.

SavartiTN, I think, is hitting the perverbial nail on the had. And I wish to add to her observation:

  1. I've known teachers to take a personal dislike to students and attempt to undergrade and fail the student.

  2. On the other hand, I've known teachers to coverup for a failing students and give them passing grades because they knew the students or parents or were related, friends or neighbors.

  3. There have been instances where students were told to open their books and go to the certain chapter and read it, then the teacher got on the computer and played for the entire period.

  4. It was the school system who systematically started a campaign to discourage parents being involved with their children's education. The practice of banning parents from schools began about three or four decades ago. They simply did not want the parents involved in their children's learning process, then proceeded to dumb down those students.

  5. There are far too many variables that have taken place over a period of time for anyone to say here lies the problem, therefore here lies the solution.

July 31, 2011 at 11:20 a.m.
fedup350 said...

5v5, you cant be a teacher, your posts dont make sense, and you are a rascist by blaming the people of Soddy for the schools failures. rascist and a liberal, thats the problem with our schools. The liberals have control and bow to the rascists like you 5v5.

Selah, you make sense in one of your posts and then fall back on the Rhonda is the boogey man theory. I would take her group over Charles "the bag man" Love, The Shoplifter and the attorney and the "I answer to the mountain people" Baker anytime. Talk about special interestes and why didnt any of you that suppoted that crew answer me about the back door pension they gave themselves for a part time job? Too ashamed to answer?

5v5 again, there is no way your were a teacher and if you are at UTK then you are the janitor and there is nothing wrong with that, It is a job , be proud of that.

July 31, 2011 at 12:33 p.m.
amnestiUSAF84 said...

Well, maybe now that they've gotten their way they'll stop purposely sabotaging and interferring with student progress just to make administration look bad, and run those off they don't want in the position.

July 31, 2011 at 1:02 p.m.
Selah said...

fedup350...I believe you are so caught up in defending Rhonda that you fail to recognize their failure to govern with ethics. Who said I ever voted for Boydston, Love or supported Register, Scales? I do not think Rhonda is the boogey man and I once was a supporter of her because she stood her ground on some tough issues. Now I do not support Rhonda because she is becoming the very person she spoke out against. She is willing to sale herself to the devil to accomplish a back room deal (the same thing she spoke up against regularly, hypocrite---she is the scapegoat)I never agreed with any of the back door politics and I don't agree with them now. The "tic for tat" antics just continue to show how childish our governing bodies are and how we need to clean up govt. This is sickening no matter what side your own and it will not succeed. Wrong is wrong.

When individuals get trumped at their own game why do we all seem so surprised? These games have been played for years and need to stop. Hopefully, it will beginning in 2012. Sometimes desparation will make people get out of the box.

AlmostAmanda...thanks for serving our CHILDREN. You are top notch in my book. I agree with your post about poor teachers, poor parenting, Central office, and poor administrators are all part of the problem. The real issues are never addressed because of the childish games of the adults. I have heard through numerous teachers that the prof. development has always been a waste of time and very rarely includes topics or issues that teachers want addressed.

The varying degrees of students ready to learn in the classroom is interesting yet guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologist are not increased to help deal with these issues so the teachers can teach. More money is put in to pay "do nothing" administrators and central office supers that have nothting to offer the schools except putdowns and bullying tactics.

There was no fat trimmed from Central office...just positions eliminated, and who knows which ones, then the people reshuffled into other positions which means you really didn't trim any fat (are they still making the same salaries or close to it?).
Oh, the games our governing bodies play. Lord, help us. The children need you

July 31, 2011 at 3:47 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

AlmostAmanda...I am impressed with your sound like a very caring that I wish my sons could have had in HS.

Now, I am curious...What is YOUR take on Rhonda Thurmand and Rick Smith?

July 31, 2011 at 4:26 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Thanks. I care a lot about my kiddos and being a good teacher and role model for them. The job can be very frustrating, but I really do love it and couldn't imagine being happier doing anything else.

Rhonda Thurman probably has good intentions, however she is very ignorant about about a lot of the inner workings of schools. She too frequently shoots her mouth off about things she clearly doesn't understand. A good leader thinks about whether their comments are going to push the conversation forward or become a distraction. Rhonda's failure to think before she speaks or learn more about something before she makes accusations shows a serious lack of leadership on her part. That being said, I know she is pretty good about getting back to her constituents and is passionate about what she believes. I can respect that even when I think - and sometimes know - she's wrong. I just wish she remembered that her primary responsibility is to the kids, not to doing everything as cheaply as possible. I also wish her critics would focus on what she says and does as a board member instead of poking fun at the fact that she is also a hairdresser. It is a respectable career - one that she has turned into a successful business - and should not be used to discredit her. It's classist and immature.

Rick Smith I don't know. I've never really had to deal with him, and I've heard good and bad from people I respect. I am willing to give him a chance (not like I have any other option). I don't really agree with how he came to office, but I hope he'll do a good job - especially since the money spent buying Scales out in favor of him could have saved 5-6 teaching positions.

July 31, 2011 at 6 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

Thank you for sharing your opinion with us...I am happy that a knowledgable teacher is answering some of our questions...

I agree Rhonda should have thought long and hard about her "slaves" remark...I have felt she has good common sense but is ignorant of some issues...not an ignorant (stupid) person but unknowing of some of the "inner workings" of the school system, as you said...

I only wish you could take her by the hand and enlighten her...she could use a good trustworthy friend ...

July 31, 2011 at 6:56 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

AlmostAmanda...What is your feelings about Dr. Scales? What kind of a job do you think he did?

July 31, 2011 at 6:58 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

I can only hope Rhonda and Rick are reading these comments...

July 31, 2011 at 7:04 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

I never had to deal with Scales directly, so I can't say that much. I know he changed a few policies (allowing principals to interview and select their new assistants from an approved pool, for example) which were an improvement. I was unhappy to see highly-compensated central office personnel get raises because "they were doing the jobs of so many" while teachers and principals were doing the same thing as class sizes grew and good teachers and administrators were laid off or pushed into early retirement. Danielle Clark's position, salary, and ridiculous benefits were totally unnecessary. He should have done a lot more to speak for himself. Other than that, I noticed very few changes in the way things went. He always seemed a little scattered to me, but I think he came in when things were very obviously in a downturn and he wasn't able to pull it back up. The endless budget problems - which he did not create - didn't help. It's hard to improve scores when you have to cut 30-50 teaching positions a year followed the state abruptly changing the standards (which were needed, but gave the appearance that schools took a huge downturn).

I don't think anyone can honestly say that he didn't face a very strong opposition from the beginning - I think it had more to do with the fact that he was an "outsider" rather than his race, although I can't say for sure that it didn't play a part. In turn, he got some school board members that were overly supportive and pushed through an unnecessary contract extension.

All in all, I'd say he was a decent guy who didn't have a clear enough vision, lacked both support and reasonable criticism, who struggled to deal with changing state and federal mandates, ridiculous budget cuts, and several poor choices in staffing and appropriate use of limited funds. I'd give him a C-/D+.

July 31, 2011 at 10:12 p.m.
Selah said...

Thanks AlmostAmanda for your insight. Why can't individuals like you make it to Central Office and the school board to help sort out the needs of public education? How can we get you in the right place for change? Teaching is one of the only profession I know of that workers are actually expected to work overtime without pay and be ok with it.
Blessings to you for all the work you do for KIDS!!!

July 31, 2011 at 11:02 p.m.
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