Some interesting comments in this morning's City Paper article titled "Schools see slightly fewer students than anticipated".
“This has been an unusual opening — the volatility of the heat and the half-days,” said Larry Collier, Metro Schools’ student assignment services director. “And we have a lot of schools with high numbers of ELL (English Language Learner) students…” (snip) Many school administrators have indicated that some of their ELL students are still out of the country visiting family and are unsure of when they will enroll, according to Collier.Seems like an after Labor Day start to the school year would clear up most of this. People vote with their feet. They decided that somewhere else was where they wanted to be in August. I know a young woman who missed the first week because she was still on a cultural exchange trip for the first couple of weeks this month. THAT's the sort of educational opportunity that trumps being in school and her parents chose rightly to send her regardless of the start date of school. I'm not supportive of routine family visits preventing attendance, however.
So the system remains in flux until everyone is in place on "day 40"? How handicapping on the educational process is that? This is less of a negative impact on learning than a Christmas break? Here's another thing to factor into the real cost of starting school so early. (See SaveTennessee Summers for others.)
George Thompson (17 year BOE member, Chairman of the Board for Great City Schools and up for reelection next August) is quoted as saying:
...he is seeing increased growth in the county reflecting increase enrollment numbers, he thinks the numbers would have been much larger had an exodus to private schools not occurred in the 1970’s.He's exactly right in saying that in 1970 MNPS was on the cusp of reaching that 100,000 enrollment mark and we took a huge plunge after that. However, what started as 'white flight' 40 years ago, has morphed into legitimate school choice by parents who will no longer tolerate empty promises and have decided that their children will not be sacrificed on the altar of public education. This system didn't want to hear from me last summer why this school district is losing families. It's easier to place the blame on the racist fears of parents rather than their own performance and decision making. They fail to accept that they are becoming less and less of of an educational monopoly despite legislative props. Just because MNPS doesn't want to participate in the competition for students doesn't mean they aren't already in the game. Token choices are not enough. And they shouldn't count on a influx of Hispanics to ensure the numbers climb. Those families are also starting to look at other educational options. What MNPS fails to realize is that there is a longing for quality neighborhood schools--the original small learning communities. The quicker we get there, the faster these enrollment numbers will rise.
“We’re not growing as fast and at the same time we’re having some people who are leaving the district,” Thompson said. “Those who are opting out and going to private schools… [but] we have experience growth in our Hispanic populations.”
I was given information from student services while on the school board last year which included a wonderfully illuminating set of charts. I expect they update these on a regular basis, as they should. These are charts tracking the Nashville population on top and the MNPS population on the bottom (a larger copy can be seen here). The years are not exactly aligned, there is a couple of years difference. But the margin of decrease so enormous that that small misalignment is meaningless. The high point on the MNPS chart at the bottom is approximately 96,000 students in 1970. MNPS isn't even keeping pace. People continue to leave and the BOE, if it wants to ensure a healthy and vibrant public education system in Nashville, must, absolutely MUST, commit to providing every available option if they want to survive. The sheer volume of applications for magnet schools year after year after year ought to have given the BOE plenty of clue of what parents want. Why it's not being provided is a mystery to me. Parents and voters need to start asking those August 2008 BOE candidates why not and expecting specific answers. If they respond with a lot of 'our hands are tied' answers--I suggest you cut them loose and find candidates willing and capable of undoing those knots.