Thursday, August 03, 2006

Graduating deferred

I got a phone call from a constituent Wednesday afternoon. She wanted to know why CM Eric Crafton was so upset during a council meeting. Since I'd been a bit busy of late I was completely unaware of what she was talking about. But it didn't take long to figure out CM Crafton was making an impassioned plea for the school system to do a better job at shepherding our high schoolers. The legislation being considered was RS2006-1449 which follows:


A resolution requesting the Metropolitan Board of Public Education to require high school guidance counselors to meet with all seniors during the first week of school to confirm the graduation track they are pursuing, to provide information regarding credits needed to graduate, and to provide information regarding college and scholarship applications.

WHEREAS, according the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average high school graduate earns in excess of $700 per month more than the average person who has not completed high school; and

WHEREAS, the graduation rate for Metropolitan Nashville high schools is an indication that high school students may not be given the tools necessary to become successful and productive members of the workforce; and

WHEREAS, a primary functions of high school guidance counselors should be providing the necessary information and encouragement to students to ensure that they stay on track for graduation; and

WHEREAS, meeting at the beginning of the school year with all students intending to graduate in the spring would help these students focus on what needs to be done to fulfill their goals and would provide them with the necessary information about college and scholarship applications.


Section 1. That the Metropolitan County Council hereby goes on record as requesting the Metropolitan Board of Public Education to require high school guidance counselors to meet with all seniors during the first week of school to confirm the graduation track they are pursuing, to provide information regarding credits needed to graduate, and to provide information regarding college and scholarship applications.

Section 2. That the Metropolitan Clerk is directed to send a copy of this Resolution to Dr. Pedro Garcia, the Director of Schools, and to each member of the Metropolitan Board of Public Education.

Section 3. That this Resolution shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.

Sponsored by: Carolyn Baldwin Tucker, Eric Crafton, Vivian Wilhoite

Why would such a simple request bring about such strong emotion? Why would such a simple request be objected to by Dr. Garcia? Why wouldn't this pass immediately?

The later can only be answered by Dr. Garcia. It was his administration (not as was incorrectly stated the school board) that requested a one meeting delay.

The truth behind this is that some of the counselors at Maplewood failed in a spectacular fashion to do their job last year and the result was that 40 students were in danger of not graduating on time. That's over and above the tremendous odds they must beat to even get to their senior year since 60% of them never graduate.

All told, the sloppy record-keeping and poor communication from the school's four guidance counselors affect 43 students, about 25% of 12th graders, according to Metro school officials. One counselor has been suspended with pay for the duration of the investigation.

"It is very upsetting. There's nothing else I can say," said Chief Instructional Officer Sandy Johnson. "All we can do at this point is correct it and make sure it doesn't occur in the future."


"We've come a long way, but we've still got obvious problems," said Schools Director Pedro Garcia. "Right now, we're just doing seniors because they're the most critical, but we'll eventually do juniors and sophomores."Tennessean 2/4/06

So here's your chance, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Garcia. Thank the council for their concern and throw your support solidly behind this request. Do it one better and make sure it happens every year from that September of their 9th grade year and every year afterward. What better evidence of incompetence is needed to fire these counselors? What better opportunity to demonstrate to the council your willingness to work with them?

Note: Lillian Wilbert is the counselor that was suspended with pay and I'm told this morning that she's been reassigned to teach English at Hunter's Lane High School.


mnbvcxz said...

This is a great idea, but it's going to take a lot more counselors to do it (and better ones too). My high school had 4 counselors for 1200 students and they worked their tails off to meet with all of us at the beginning of the year. Metro has nowhere near as many counselors (per student) and a much more difficult job considering how many students enter, leave, and transfer each year (I've seen cumulative records from within and outside the system show up months after the student). As for getting better counselors (and firing the bad ones), they need to be taken off of the tenure track and placed in the administrative ranks--they are far too crucial to be protected from their mistakes (teachers too, but that's another can of worms).

jim collins said...

To little,too late.Counselors should be required to meet with all Juniors during the first week or two of the school year,to assure they are on track.Then they should meet again,in the week prior to the Senior year to recheck.I agree that more and possibly better trained counselors are needed.This would be a positive step.

Anonymous said...

At my MNPS high school, the guidance counselors DO meet with each and every senior during the first month of school to review their academic record, count credits and tell them what they must do in order to graduate on time. The students sign the sheet indicating that they have had the conference and get a copy for their records. In addition, guidance counselors meet with students through out their high school careers about the graduation requirements and the progress each student is making toward that goal.

In our culture, high school students are not expected to be responsible for their own learning. Students know if they fail a class, but few take responsibility to make up the credit on their own. Every student gets a copy of the Program of STudies which states very clearly what the requirements are for graduation. Until we start holding high school students accountable for their academic progress, we are not going to see much change.

When I was in high school, we had only one guidance counselor for 1000 students, so I can't ever rememember meeting one on one with a counselor to discuss my academic progress. We did have group meetings and I was expected to listen to the information and make sure I met the requirements. By the time a student is in high school, it is time for the student to be held accountable for knowing the graduation requirements and for meeting them.

Kay Brooks said...

And what MNPS school is 'yours'?