Friday, December 30, 2005


No, I haven't fallen off the planet. In the last couple of weeks we've celebrated the 18th birthday of our oldest, the birth of our Savior, our 20th wedding anniversary and next up is our family New Year's celebration. It's enough to keep anyone busy.

Keep the RSS feed. We'll be partied out soon. :-)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Coal for the TEA

...courtesy of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. Children and families desperately need educational options. Excellent teachers ought to be paid well and not have to support the mediocre on the team. Government must get the highest return for taxpayer dollars possible. The one entity that consistently stands in the way of all of that is the teacher's union and TCPR does a good job of explaining how they stand in the way.

TCPR "grants the award to the person or group that, more than any other over the past year, has bah-humbugged the American ideal of personal initiative, individual liberty and a constitutional government while acting as a Grinch to taxpayers by unnecessarily and wastefully spending their money."

Congrats to the TEA...considering how busy a political year this has been in the state, this was no small feat.

Read the entire award at the TCPR website.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

I believe the President.

And in despair, I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song,
Of Peace on earth good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With Peace on earth, good will to men."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Teacher salaries

Before the school board, union leaders, legislators, parents and taxpayers crunch those school budget numbers they may want to read the latest from Mike Antonucci. Using figures from the latest NEA report called Rankings and Estimates he write:

NEA's tables clearly indicate that the reason so many states are having education funding problems -- and why the average teacher salary is not higher -- is not because of NCLB, cheapskate taxpayers, stingy administrators, or any of the other usual targets. It's because as a percentage of the whole, we're hiring more teachers -- many more teachers -- than we're enrolling students to support them.

In 2004-05, America enrolled 297,101 more students than in 2003-04. But it employed 49,732 more teachers. That's 1 teacher for every additional 6 students.
(emphasis mine--K)
According to Mike's math Tennessee hired 1.6% new teachers for a .9% student increase. The question then is: is this unbalanced increase correcting overcrowding or, perhaps, staff that isn't really 'essential'?

And let's not overlook this from the NEA report:
Teacher salaries, however, increased at a rate higher than inflation in nine states, giving teachers more money to cover their living expenses, support their families, pay for continuing education, and save for unexpected emergencies. Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico, Montana, and Oklahoma were among the states where increases in teacher salaries rose faster than the rate of inflation.
(Again, emphis mine--K)
Again, I'm all for paying excellent teachers well. They earn it. I'd just like to be able to verify that they really are excellent teachers before they get those excellent paychecks and benefits.

Saving Girlhood

We've got three girls in this house. Each one of them eagerly anticipated their 7th birthday rite of passage which included receiving their own American Girl doll. These were all purchased during the more innocent and sweeter time when Pleasant Company owned the doll and before the Mattel Company bought out the originator of the doll. The mailman delivers the catalog and chores and schoolwork are done quickly in order to be the first to scan the new stuff available. Mom and Gma haul out the sewing machine to create clothing and their website knows our debit card number.

What nearly derailed their AG love affair was learning that Mattel had politicized their favorite doll by linking to and supporting an organization that supported abortion as a right.

Today, though, we're glad to read that they've come around to realizing that the issue isn't one that is appropriate for these young girls. And Mattel didn't just drop the hot potato, they've even taken it one step further and started "Saving Girlhood".

From every angle, today's girls are bombarded by influences pushing them toward womanhood at too early an age—at the expense of their innocence, their playfulness, their imagination. We'd like to change that.
We'd like to save girlhood.

Talk about backpaddling! That's quite a change. From funding an organization that supports 'a woman's right' and actually helping to push them toward womanhood to recognizing that the innocence of these girls is valuable. I don't think it was a change of heart. I think it was market forces at work.

I'm glad they came around. Now I can finish the Christmas shopping--Molly needs a new pair of glasses.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tuesday 12/13/05

Lots of activity this holyday season and so things have gotten backlogged. Hang on while I clear the desktop.

Freedom in Ohio--

The state that was the demarcation between free and slave states does it again by demonstrating education freedom. That same ethnic group joyfully embraced and fought for choice in Cincinnati and their struggle has set more captives free in the rest of the state.

The State Legislature has passed a voucher program, okaying millions of public tax dollars to send students to private schools. Monday, the state began getting out the word on how the program will work.
The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers says draining money from public schools is no way to help public schools: From WKRC
Note to the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers: it's not about helping public schools--it's about actually educating students.

Oh...captives is too harsh a word? 'Compulsory attendance' isn't?

Well said--

But if public school districts wish to keep their enrollment numbers up -- and stop parents from homeschooling their children or sending them to parochial, private, charter or online schools -- they'd better be willing to adapt to changing trends in our society.

Academic freedom does not trump parental rights. From the Mansfield( OH) News Journal

Educated? Maybe not--

Sarah Moore's piece about an author's use of a thesaurus made me laugh out loud. The only thing Sarah overlooked was responding to this sentence by the editorial writer:

From the safety of any state university, the quixotic thrill of honorably serving the public can be thoroughly quenched with a bachelor of education degree.

Education majors may want to rethink that. I served in the military. I'm sure that my mother-in-law's experience in a inner city Nashville school was much more dangerous than my service during the Carter administration.

And since we're criticizing 'educated' folks.

I wouldn't wish this visit to the woodshed with Balidlocks on anyone. A "a 19 year old white william and mary student" has such poor writing skills that you wonder how he managed to get into the school. This isn't the half of it:

(As an aside, were I one of the faculty at William and Mary, I’d give you an ‘F’ simply for staining that august institution’s reputation by displaying your poor writing skills; it wouldn’t matter what subject it was. Were I one of your parents, I’d demand a refund for your tuition. However, I’m glad that you are only nineteen because you will have time to improve all of the writing-skill deficiencies displayed above.)

Here's an excellent idea
that ought to be replicated across the nation--

Nashville's KIPP charter school created an Amazon wish list to fill the school's library.

[KIPP principal Randy Dowell] and KIPP business manager Matt Grace stumbled upon the idea when doing research for the redesign of the school’s Web site.

Grace said they saw other school Web sites had wish lists and decided to coordinate one with Amazon because it would allow them to register for a variety of needs.

Staff members sent an e-mail invitation to check out the wish list to all their friends and family and the donations quickly rolled in. From Nashville City Paper

Anyone surprised that it's a charter school that's taken this innovative action? Let's have more schools with this kind of 'git er done' attitude. Here's their wishlist. Big upside--you don't have to pay for anything you find objectionable.

I'm pro-choice--

and so is Nathan Moore:

It’s something all school systems in America should not only consider but implement- especially Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Creative solutions and new ways of thinking seem to be beyond the abilities of our current administration. It’s the vision thing, and as I’ve said before, we’re short on visionaries at the local level.
And Nathan takes it a bit further and asks when Nashville's school board chair is up for reelection. Not until 2008, Nathan.

More from the Moores---

Frankly, the Moores are doing a great job covering and commenting on education issues--maybe I am expendable. :-)

Here Nathan uses an essay on the need for a college education to make the case that too many aren't even ready for college and they'll get a sub-par college education as it is.


the higher cost of that lower education is the result of government control. Sen. Lamar Alexander was quoted as saying:

“Yet, thanks largely to the last two rounds of the federal Higher Education Act, each one of our 6,000 higher education institutions that accepts students with federal grants and loans must wade through over 7,000 regulations and notices. The president of Stanford has said that seven cents of every tuition dollar is spent on compliance with governmental regulations.”
I remember some years back asking why the state of Tennessee was even in the business of higher education. Why are my tax dollars funding any of this? A correspondent replied "Because it's too expensive for me to send my children to school without help." Apparently it never occurred to them that if they got to keep their tax money they may actually be able to afford this college education.

And at the other end of the education process--

Current House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington) looks toward the opening of the legislative session in January and writes:

The first round of pre-K expansion this fall is being financed with $25 million in excess lottery proceeds. As we move forward, we will need to commit additional funds out of existing revenues if we're going to realize the dream of offering prekindergarten to every 4-year-old in the state whose parents want him or her to attend.

Accomplishing that could prove politically difficult. Despite overwhelming support for pre-K, there still are some in the General Assembly who have exhibited short-sightedness and flawed logic when it comes to investing in our children. From the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

It is not 'short-sighted' for legislators to look into their constituent's wallets and see that we don't have the money you clearly want. What's short sighted is to begin a program knowing that the finances for that program are tenuous and 'politically difficult'.

I strongly recommend reading the Speaker's entire article.

Government as landlord--

That whole school board as landlord thing keeps popping up. After fussing about the terrible condition of the old Litton High School Gymnasium I realized I'd completely overlooked the Baxter Alternative Learning School, also in Inglewood. The school was in such bad condition that they built another one just down the road to replace it. BUT somehow it was good enough for those 'alternative' students. Never mind it was an eyesore to their neighbors we were told the school board didn't have the funds to fix it up. So the neighborhood business group took it upon themselves to do the job. And it seems the students are appreciating the effort.

And now comes news via Enclave that the renovations of Jones Paideia, saved from the brink, may not get the contracted renovations. He does provide some useful suggestions for community input.

Kingsport ALC---

The Kingsport Times-News supports the formation of an alternative school in their area.

Modern public schools, unlike a generation ago, are required to educate any student, short of truly violent criminal misbehavior.
Well, the system did this to themselves. They wanted compulsory attendance. They've got compulsory attendance and all that comes with it--to include meeting the needs of special needs children and badly behaving ones. The only real solution is to recognize that compulsion isn't the answer.

Speaking of punishment---

Thaddeus Matthews and his commenters have a fair amount to say about the issue in Memphis.

Supt. Carol Johnson and some of the members of the City of Memphis school board wanted to end corporal punishment and go to a program called Blue Ribbon.A program that will cost taxpayers $6,000,000 over 3 years. But is it working? Are we hearing about all the violence that is taking place now that we have given control of the schools to the students?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Plays well with others

It always seems odd to me when folks point at socialization as an issue with homeschoolers while refusing to play with them. Thankfully, TSSAA has finally recognized that their charges play homeschoolers in other states during tournaments and it no longer makes sense to disallow athletes within the state to play together.

The TSSAA issued a memo which oulines the changes in their Bylaws.

The Legislative Council amended Article IV, Section 1 to now state:

A member of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association is permitted to play or scrimmage any secondary school with grades 9 and above in regular season play.

For purposes of this rule, a school team may be one school or a cooperative program of one or more schools.

We will also add the following to the definitions section:

School team – An entity comprised of one or more students in a school, under the control and conduct of the school, which represents the school in interscholastic athletic competition.

In amending the Bylaw, the Legislative Council also took action for this change to go into effect immediately.

As an attendee of the Senate Education sub-committee studying this issue it was my understanding that this is a first step for TSSAA in this area. There are still several issues to be worked out. But a step forward is good.

The legislation that encouraged this change (SB1356 and HB1297) also sought to allow homeschooler participation in public school extra-curricular activities such as music, art and drama. No word yet on what will be done in January to accomplish the rest of these goals. The current law allows this and more, but superintendents are very reluctant to give their permission--and their permission is required. The TEA has been adamant in their opposition.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Do not close any school

Here's MNPS Director of Schools Pedro Garcia's complete statement as released earlier today:

Dr. Garcia Statement to the Board of Education
Thursday, December 8, 2005

At its August retreat, the Board of Education listed as a priority the study of school
capacity issues across the district. The Metro Council and Mayor had all repeatedly asked us to look at this issue as well. In September, after the Sales Tax referendum failed, it became clear that budget reductions for 2006-2007 were going to be necessary. The Board asked us to look at which small schools could be closed or consolidated, without changing cluster lines, as a way to reduce recurring costs.

We immediately began to study the issue of school capacity across the district. It became apparent that there were only a few schools that could be closed or consolidated. At the November 8th Board meeting, I presented options for discussion and consideration.

After significant dialogue over the past several weeks, it is clearly evident that neither
this community nor this Board is ready to close schools. I initially said that the Board had to decide if it was worth it to disrupt and displace 2,000 students in order to save $4 million by closing seven schools. We know how painful school closures are and this has been evident in the comments from our students, parents, and community members, as well as in the Board discussions. Therefore, I recommend that we do not close any school for the 2006-07 school year. I also recommend that we do not change any of the present school configurations except for the proposed Antioch rezoning. This recommendation allows ample time for issues to be thoroughly studied for later consideration.

The process for the operating budget begins in just a few months and, as in the past, the Administration will bring its recommendation to the Board in March for consideration.

I want to remind everyone, as we move forward, that it is of the utmost importance that
this Administration and Board be united for the students, parents, and community of this district.
Well, that's good news for many areas. But that still leaves unanswered--what about the $25 million shortfall?

Garcia says...

Oh, wait, can I say what he said?

Not being a professional journalist I'm not completely familiar with what 'embargoed until 5:00 p.m. 11/8/05' means on the just released (3:50 p.m.) press release from Metro Nashville Public Schools. But I'm assuming it means I can't say what he says about closing schools [COUGH don't COUGH] until 5:00 p.m.

What rot. Seems a bit unfair and overly controlling if my assumption is correct. The news services can be working on this piece but we mere citizens can't know about it or discuss it until after they've had their shot at telling what is/ought to be public information and the MNPS office is closed? Who made that rule?

Stay tuned.

Here's a thought...

...real scientists teaching science--

The Thomas Fordham Institute has released a study of science in public schools.

Mr. [Paul R] Gross [the study's chief author] said that more critical [than evolution v. intelligent design] has been a retreat from an emphasis on all science instruction, which is leaving students ungrounded in basic subjects like biology, human physiology and the environment. From the NYTimes

and from the Fordham website comes this suggestion:

More involvement by bench scientists, and better editing, could greatly improve what’s out there.

Bench scientists--I'm all for encouraging people who actually know the subject being recruited and placed in our classrooms. I suspect we'd have less dogmatism about evolution and ID if such were so.

Here's the link to the Fordham study: The State of Science Standards 2005.

Diploma lite

Georgia is thinking like Tennessee and other states. Student's are having a hard time passing the necessary tests to get a high school diploma so the GA State Board of Education has:

approved a rule Wednesday that will give some students who repeatedly fail one portion of the high school graduation test a chance to get a diploma anyway. From AJC.
and let's not overlook the kicker at the end of the article:

Sean McKenzie, a northwest Georgia teacher, asked legislators to intervene last year on behalf of several of his Hispanic students who could not pass the test.

He said the students worked hard to learn the material, but they didn't speak English well enough to pass. He has said he doesn't think the new state rule goes far enough in making the process fair to students with language barriers.

Couldn't speak English well enough to pass the test. So how well are they really going to do in our society?
And if we allow this accomodation have we really provided the skills necessary to be successful? Or are they going to be limited to their own communities? Educrats continuously throw the socialization question in the face of homeschoolers--isn't this a fundamental socialization skill that shouldn't be overlooked?

Phonics wins again

An Australian coalition has published the newest report on phonics v. whole language and according to this news article whole language goes down hard--again.

The inquiry calls for schools to embrace "systematic direct phonics instruction so children master the essential alphabetic code-breaking skills required for foundational reading proficiency".

You can read the report from the AU government site here. They also have recommendations for parents at this page. The report tells parents that in the first three years of schooling children do best if there is an integrated approach to teaching reading that includes:
  • phonemic awareness: the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in oral language
  • phonics: the relationship between letters and sounds
  • fluency: the ability to read quickly and naturally, recognize words automatically, and group words quickly
  • vocabulary knowledge: new words and what they mean; and
  • text comprehension: understand what is being read and developing higher order thinking skills.
Homeschoolers can tell you from experience that MOST children do well with systematic phonics instruction. It's not difficult to teach and it can be done inexpensively. I used the same $25.00 book for each of my own four children. So for $6.25 each and a library card they were well on their way to reading Lord of the Rings and Shakespeare as well as math and science texts. And their mother, a voracious reader despite learning via the Dick and Jane method, learned to read even better. Parents: if your child's school isn't utilizing phonics, take the job on yourself--it's worth the time.

This skill is too important for 'experimenting' with. My own brother suffered from a reading experiment in the '60's. I don't' wish that on any child. In my conversations with a juvenile parole officer it's not unusual for their charges to suffer from the inability to read well. That leads to frustration which leads to acting out. We've got to get this right. This skill is the first most important step to being a self-sufficient adult and citizen.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


More and more I hear from parents who are tired of performing what's being called "afterschooling". Their child is up early, boards a bus (carpool) spends all day in the school and then carts home an impressive burden of books and assignments that eat up what precious little family time there is with homework. They wonder what on earth is actually being taught in school if so much of it still has to be done at home?

I ran into Glenn Reynold's piece today which comes complete with a photo of the book burden his young daughter must lug around. It appears that obesity in children may be necessary to keep them from just toppling over. Anyway, Glen writes:

Given that they seem to find time during the school day to have kids write D.A.R.E. essays in which they promise that alcohol will never touch their lips, I wonder why they can't find enough class time to get all this work done during the school day?

Some of these parents are using the term 'homeschooling' to describe the tutoring they do their own children in the evenings. My experience tells me that it's not too far from the truth and some parents have figured out that if they can do 'afterschooling' they can do homeschooling. In fact, it'll be easier once you don't have to interface with the school system.

There are studies about how homework impacts family life, reports of parents who handle the issue badly and newspaper living sections now devote inches and inches to the issue. But the question remains unanswered.

Why can't it all get done during the day?

Of all the social issues that schools might impact for the positive, family life and interaction ought to be very high on the list. A friend of mine (Hey, JJ) points out that we're creating a Chinese knot of sorts with parents taking on the education of the children at home and the schools taking on the parenting at school and working at cross purposes. Only coming together or dropping your end is going to bring freedom to either party.

Oh, and Glenn...Spunky thinks you ought to just drop your end and homeschool already. ;-)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

TCAP changes

are causing TIGER (Tennessee Initiative for Gifted Education Reform) to put out an action alert.

Recent changes to the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) hamper screening and identification of special education students including intellectually gifted students and prevent students from entering academic talent searches.
Read the rest at the TIGER website and voice your opinions.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Pre-school problems

A portent of things to come?

California is dealing with universal preschool. They used Quebec's version as a model and...well, it turns out it's not going very well up there. This from Lisa Snell and Shikha Dalmia

The final price tag for Quebec's day care program is 33 times what was originally projected: It was supposed to cost $230 million over five years, but now gobbles $1.7 billion every year.

With this kind of spending, one would think that Quebec was offering top-notch day care to every tot, toddler and teen.

Think again.

Much of the increased spending has gone not toward increased access, but increased costs. Day care worker unions, on the threat of strike, negotiated a 40 percent increase in wages over four years. The cost of care has doubled since the program began, with the annual per-infant cost now exceeding $15,000. From SFGate

Now go read what Simply I has posted about the Pre-K quagmire that's begun in Tennessee.

Who's up for this?

From Mike Antonucci's latest EIA update:

Six-Month Newspaper Investigation of Illinois Teacher Tenure. Here's a D-Day type effort you rarely see newspapers put together for an education story. The Small Newspaper Group, publishers of a handful of small, Midwestern papers, filed some 1,500 public records requests with all of Illinois' public school districts to learn how often they attempted to fire a tenured teacher. The results: In the past 18 years, 93 percent of the state's districts have never even tried to fire a tenured teacher. Of the more than 95,000 tenured teachers in the state, an average of only two per year are fired for poor job performance.

Illinois Education Association (IEA) President Ken Swanson had called the notion that you cannot fire a tenured teacher in Illinois "an urban legend." Judge for yourself. The Small Newspaper Group has set up a web site that will contain all the stories in the series, a discussion forum and links to the series' supporting documents. It is located at

I'd sure like to see how Tennessee measures up.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It's Christmas

Apparently last evening's Channel 2 piece of the Nashville Christmas Tree got S-Town Mike worked up. Brittney at NiT had to respond and so must I.

I saw the broadcast. I don't remember the blessing. I do remember Bob Mueller saying that the mayor's office didn't care what 'the tree' was called. And then Bob Mueller said they'd (Channel 2) be calling it a Christmas tree. I understood it to be an attempt at humor in light of the current brouhaha across the nation.

Brittney called it a 'paper thin' piece. Please, it's not like the station hasn't broadcast 'paper thin' pieces before. It's not all hard hitting investigative journalism all the time at any of the stations or papers. But sometimes the fluff is a bit obvious, I'll grant.

We call it a Christmas tree. We understand it's pagan roots and I don't believe it keeps us some celebrating the birth of Jesus (and yes we know we can't nail down the real date). But I appreciate recognition of his birth, death and resurrection. I don't expect any of us to get that done perfectly.

I was at Target the other morning to buy a new smoke detector for my MIL. It was oddly silent as I entered the front and it took me a moment to realize why it seemed wrong. And then it came to me--there was no Salvation Army bell ringer out front. And then my daughter and I scanned the place, which was decorated to the nines, and we could only find one instance of the word Christmas and it was on a product. In fact while the decorations were obviously seasonal, Christmas was nowhere and even the word holiday was scarce.

I don't want our businesses and governments to be the definers and protectors of my religious holy days. But I do want the freedom to celebrate them without being constrained by the government and business. I do feel that between our bending over backwards to accommodate diversity in this nation and the commercialization of the season we've lost our focus on what Christmas is supposed to celebrate. Blame it on Macy's, I suppose. Maybe it started with that famous "Yes, Virginia" letter. I don't' know. But I do grieve when people are constrained from wishing each other, with the best of intentions, "Merry Christmas". When folks are more willing to embrace a fat stalker in ermine rather than a loving God's attempt to prove he understands us and loves us there is something majorly wrong.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wednesday 11/30/05

Enclave reports on the proposal to close MNPS Jones Paideia School--

and includes "a few details that might daze and discombobulate you as well"

The Red Pen--

Nathan Moore has some great first hand information from Councilwoman Tucker about her thoughts on this whole Nashville school budget process. She pulled out her own red pen. Glad to see it. Miscellaneous and Other columns are lazy and need to be outed.

In a seemingly common sense manner, Councilwoman Tucker focuses on 1) new items from this year’s budget and 2) items cryptically marked as “Other Expenses.” My sources say that the school board has not yet granted her the opportunity to speak to them.

On the Curve--

I was out of town when the Nashville Scene published this piece on the rising Metro Nashville test scores. It's definitely worth a read.

When you take off the rose-colored glasses, turn off the local press boosterism, tune out the Bransford Avenue spin, and look with care and skepticism at the numbers, a different picture emerges. It’s not a contrary picture—higher TCAP scores aren’t imaginary—but there’s a good deal less than meets the eye to the “dramatic” gains that many credit Garcia for achieving.

Nashville is Talking blog has some additional links--

regarding the Oak Ridge High School student papers that were confiscated. Including a link to a copy of the actual article. Pity it's nearly illegible.

News of the weird and, apparently, unwell--

A Fayetteville principal finally fessed up to attacking himself.

"Mr. Steelman is very sorry for what he's done," the school director said. "He needs some help. Anybody thinking rationally would not have done that." From the Tennessean

The cussing jar on steroids--

There will be no more f-words, b-words or s-words spoken, yelled or hissed in classes at Hartford Public or Bulkeley high schools.

Not for free, anyway.

Students who dare utter words of the sort are paying dearly for their vocabulary. In a bid to rein in out-of-control language - and behavior - city police officers assigned to the schools have started doling out tickets with $103 fines. They have charged about two dozen students over the past few weeks with creating a public disturbance, an infraction. From the Hartford (Ct) Courant

If this comes to Nashville, expect to hear students complain about how school resource officers have a "cussin' quota" and are only writing tickets to accumulate enough money to finish pimping Superintendent Garcia's SUV.

Stranger than fiction

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh. I've long thought that too many of our schools were looking more and more like prisons with their smaller windows, regimenting bells, hall passes, metal detectors and school 'resource' officers and less and less like fun places for young children to learn. I know that many parents welcome 'back to school' time and some already stressing about what to do with the darlings over Christmas vacation. And so I laughed out loud at my own self when I read:

ATTICA—A group of disgruntled sign-carrying parents are expected protest a proposal by the Lapeer Community Schools Board of Education to close Attica Ele-mentary School... From the County Press in MI

Can you think of a more badly named school for young children? Or am I the only on that read Attica and immediately pictured the New York maximum security prison?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Where did I hear this before...

From a recent article by Jay Matthews

Parental involvement is often cited as vital to raising student achievement. The best schools usually have the most school-oriented parents, many experts say. So doesn't it make sense that all schools need that kind of support at home?

But a new study of low-income public schools in California has concluded that several other factors, including teaching the state's rigorous academic content and getting experienced teachers, have much more influence on achievement than does parents' involvement. The findings have inspired a national debate on the subject, with some parents like Allen saying the study is correct and others saying parental influence should not be so quickly dismissed. From the Detroit News

Oh yeah, now I remember. Dr. William Sanders has been saying this for years.

A recent report by the national nonprofit group Education Trust, based in part on Sanders' analyses, found that the achievement gap that separates low-income and minority students from other students could be eliminated if the low-income and minority students were assigned to the best teachers. 1998 The Tennessean

The report, Good Teaching Matters - How Well-Qualified Teachers Can Close the Gap, goes on to assert that the academic achievement gap - the gap in standardized test scores and other measures of achievement that separates low-income students and students of color from other students - could be entirely eliminated if these students were systematically assigned the most highly qualified teachers, rather than the least qualified teachers. August 1998 Education Trust

And back to the newest study:
The four practices most closely associated with high student performance were
  • putting greater emphasis on student achievement,
  • tightening the curriculum to fit the state academic standards,
  • using student assessments to identify and remove weaknesses in instruction, and
  • assembling certified and experienced teachers and principals with the best educational equipment.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

He who pays the piper...

Some folks are pretty upset that a school principal has confiscated copies of the Oak Ridge High School student paper. Cries of "Censorship!" and "First amendment rights!" and "Free speech" are being shouted by various supporters of the students. What is being overlooked so far is that old adage:

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

For this current discussion the real lesson here, for these students and the rest of us, is that he own owns the press (or pays for the printing) gets to decide whether or not it gets printed.

The fact is that journalists since before Gutenberg have had their words censored by editors, publishers and even advertisers. Persuading those entities that the article is worth the ink and paper, the paper's good will in the community or the potential loss of advertisers or subscribers is just a part of the job. There is no Constitutional right to force a press owner to print your free speech. The reality is that free speech isn't really fee. At minimum it comes with an invoice from the printer, web host or soapbox supplier.

I suffered some of this reality check in my own high school years. I hope that the adults in this situation will not use the students as pawns for their own political agenda as was done to my high school journalism classmates and myself long ago. That would be a form of abuse that I can tell you still stings.

In the few articles available at this time I have yet to read if there was an adult advisor to these students. I wonder where they were. Why they didn't prevent this debacle? Were they given authority and then had it snatched out from under them by their higher ups? Will we end up with frustrated students who were betrayed by their authority or will they be encouraged to gather together the financial resources necessary to print their own papers?

From my point of view, a school newspaper is an extracurricular activity that falls outside any mandate the state may have to educate children. But, if the schools are going to provide this activity the lessons should be how to decide what to write, the fundamentals of writing for that particular audience and the mechanics of putting together a good publication. Somewhere in there it should also be touched on that unless you own the press you're going to have to compromise.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Metro as landlord

S-town Mike expands on my post yesterday about Metro's stewardship of property.

The frightening and ironic prospect of empty, unused public buildings and land allowed to rot in an otherwise vital neighborhood ought to startle even the most complacent or apathetic neighbor to some sort of response to school administrators. If nothing else it ought to prick the instinct to protect their quality of life. Sitting on one's hands is destructive.

He's right. Read the rest at his blog. Then write and call school board members.

Friday, November 25, 2005


I finally got around to reading Enclave's blog entries here and here regarding Jones Paideia. I should have been paying attention. It's hard to believe that the timeline wasn't arranged. It's hard to believe that in the 30 years or so since they closed Litton High in Inglewood the school board has, apparently, learned nothing about stewardship of community resources.

Here's what S-town Mike wrote:

As I told you, the destruction done by closing these schools also rips like shrapnel across the fabric of urban neighborhoods. The closure of neighborhood schools represents the closure of neighborhood centers and the closure of the familial dimensions of those neighborhoods.

Inglewood knows what that ripping is like. We're still suffering from it decades later. Once again Litton is on the chopping block. The Litton Alumni Association is doing what it can to rally support but it's an uphill fight. Our own school board representative has her children at Jones. If it comes down to Jones or Litton--which will she vote for?

The photo here is one I took of the Litton Gym on Wednesday. The inside is disgusting, to say the least. Metro has not taken care of the physical building all these years. windows have been open for years and the aviarial mess is...well, you can imagine. Every day the building will be harder to rehab. Metro has not very cooperative with those that do want to utilize and care for it.

Right behind this remnant of the old Litton gym is the newer Litton Middle School. If that closes, I've no hope that the MNPS will be a better steward of that property than it has been to the pictured gymnasium. Acres of wasted land left to rot in the middle of Inglewood along our main street. Surely we don't need to replicate this situation in Salemtown.

I understand we've only got so much money. If they need to be closed...let's make sure they are passed on to organizations and businesses that will be good stewards of the property and will enhance the neighborhoods. Metro is a lousy absentee landlord.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sales tax for the children

Ben Cunningham guest blogging at links to a Macon County vote that looks like deja vu all over again to those of us in Nashville.

This is the second time a sales increase has been put to a vote and the second time it has failed. (snip) Macon’s sales tax increase was designated for school building projects that the school board says will be needed because of population growth. From the Macon County Times.

Plain speaking

Dave Shearon has some things to say about a recent Tennessean editorial regarding the teacher's union's demands for arbitration after the defeat of the sales tax referendum 'for schools'.

Has anybody got a clue what the Tennessean is trying to say in today's editorial (copy below)? It looks like they're blaming the school board that the MNEA leadership is demanding arbitration.

It's a shame that neither the MNEA nor the Tennessean can read and understand plain English.

[And someone hand a clue to the MNEA webmaster. When I Google to find your site for shouldn't come up as the fourth entry and certainly not, disturbingly, behind the Metro Public school and Metro Government sites. And change that meta tag from 'index' to a more professional looking 'Welcome to the MNEA' or something similar. In fact, your whole set of meta tags needs an overhaul.]

Education and business

Good for Williamson County. They managed to persuade Nissan executives that their schools were an asset. I wish Davidson County and every other county in the state, had as much to work with.

Something that state legislators need to keep in mind in their own efforts to attract business is that education choice--especially among higher paying white collar workers--is an important aspect of why families choose to move to Tennessee. I routinely field inquiries from folks who are deciding to move to Tennessee vs. one of our 8 border states and they are concerned that our laws covering homeschooling, charters and online schooling aren't as accomodating as others. I can't tell you how many times I've had to deliver the disappointing news that Tennessee doesn't allow the freedom and options they want for their children's education.

And speaking of options high school is good--

[The Bristol] Board of Education unanimously approved a partnership with the Niswonger Foundation, a charitable trust for education in Eastern Tennessee.

The lion’s share, $30,000, will be used as stipends for teachers to develop curricula for online courses. The remaining $20,000 will buy software and hardware to upgrade the computers used to provide the courses.

Not sure why they need to re-invent the wheel. There are already online options that could be replicated but at least its not my money their spending. This is certainly a step in the right direction. Interestingly,

"Right now, we’re limited by the state Department (of Education) as to what we can teach," Henley said. "After that, we can make it bigger."

Eating an elephant

This could be the answer. More and more schools are labeling students as special need, for which they get additional funding, but the follow through with actual programs that effectively meet those special needs hasn't kept up. So, if what the lawmakers in Indiana have proposed starts moving across the nation it could mean freedom for millions of children, options for their parents and a huge wake up call for the public school system.

From the Indianapolis Star:

Republican lawmakers have revived a stalled push to create school vouchers that would give students public money to transfer to private schools. But this time, they'll target only one small group: autistic children.

The plan is a natural fit because the number of autistic students has multiplied to about 5,500 statewide while public schools often lack the expertise to teach them effectively, according to supporters who are at work on a bill for the legislative session.

"There's a moral imperative of assisting these families in the way that they believe is best and, second, it has the added benefit of being a very fiscally sound program," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis,..

Rep. Bosma gets it. It's parents that know their children best. It's parents that ought to have the options and the freedom to access them. Let's move this on to the special needs of students who cannot read, write or do math.

Ya gotta pay attention in class

In their efforts to defeat Arnold the California Teacher's Association decided to start collecting extra 'dues' from their union members.

Lead plaintiff Judy Liegmann, a fifth-grade teacher from Sunnyvale, said she found out about the three-year increase in late June from the CTA representative at her school. The union never formally notified her or told her of her constitutionally guaranteed options.

"Assessing dues for political purposes without asking permission [from members] ahead of time is very strange," Liegmann said. "That's money that has to do with our convictions. The union has done nothing to let teachers know they voted in an arbitrary way to dip into every teacher's paycheck to fight a political battle whether the teachers liked it or not."

It's not so strange. And I've heard this before from other union members. If you're a member of one, you may want to check on what your's is spending your hard earned dollars on. If you're a teacher consider the Professional Educators of Tennessee.

NCLB unnecessary?

And what was the NEA's Mr. Weaver saying about NCLB not improving education--

"These are extraordinary results that are getting attention across the country. These nine schools are among the lowest 20 in the state of Tennessee for the last three years they've out gained 90, 95 percent of all schools in Tennessee. They are closing the achievement gap and just making exceptional gains." From WDEF in Chattanooga

I'm not persuaded that we'd really know there is/was a problem or that there had been improvement if someone hadn't pushed some sort of accountability on schools. NCLB isn't perfect, by a long shot, but it's better than nothing.

Unfunded NCLB upheld

Unfunded NCLB upheld--

The NEA loses another court battle. What I can't figure out is where they got the idea that
Washington had to provide the money to comply with the laws they've written. Anyone ever get a check for being law abiding? More at Bill Hobbs

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

And what good will that do?

A second grader enrolled at Nashville's Tom Joy Elementary school will probably be transferred to another school after he hit a pregnant teacher hard enough to knock her down.

Discipline Coordinator Ralph Thompson says he will not recommend putting the second grader in an alternative school.

He says the child will more than likely end up at another elementary school. From NewsChannel5

And what good will that do? Will he have learned remorse, to make amends or to control himself by being transferred to another school? Seperating the parties won't redeem the situation and isn't likely to teach him manners and respect. Hopefully, his parents are on this and they'll ensure he's better behavior.

And then--what's a second grader doing with a lighter in his pocket in the first place?

Brave or desperate?

Bill Hobbs has asked me to be part of the tag team of guest bloggers at his site for the rest of the week. I've posted my first entry "Patterns" only to discover that MoveableType doesn't react the same as Blogspot in regard to apostrophes and quotes. So the post is a bit messy. But I've put out a call for help and hopefully it'll get fixed soon.

Come visit and read what U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Tax Revolt's Ben Cunningham, and Voluntarily Conservative's Rob Huddleston have to say. Their posts are easier to read than mine--and pretty interesting.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'm with Jay Greene

Jay Greene has it right. He's quoted in the KnoxNews today. According to the paper:

State officials are considering a tiered system of high school diplomas that would help lower-achieving students graduate and could boost the state's graduation rate.

and so Jay says:

"A high school diploma is a symbol that represents skills that students acquire," Greene said. "Lowering the standards to acquire pieces of paper with new names does nothing to improve skills and may mislead people about what a diploma represents."
This is, as Rush would say, symbolism over substance. If we can't actually teach them the basic skills let's just move the goal posts and call it a score. No. No way. That's not what I'm paying taxes for. Stop right there and figure out why these children aren't achieving. Change your teaching methods...don't change the goal. Call Chester County, they've got some suggestions that work.

It can be done

There are several things in this article about Chester County schools that were encouraging to me.

I've always maintained that it's one thing to work for the system, it's another to work for the system and have your children subjected to it. If it's not good enough for your children, why should it be good enough for mine? Apparently, it is good enough for this teacher and I'm happy for her and her daughter.

Mother Sarah Hibbett, who taught in the system for four years, wanted her daughter, Elisabeth, in Chester County Schools.

"I know what kind of teachers they are, and I wanted my child to sit at their feet and learn from them," she said. "We thank God every day she is where she is, and we've never been concerned about whether she was getting what she needed academically."

And here's a bit of truth:

They say they're not doing anything unique and they don't have any secrets when it comes to the high test scores they've consistently received since the state began giving report cards in the early 1990s.

School system officials compiled a list of 18 factors they believe contribute to their students' success. Those include dedicated teachers, community and parent support, high expectations, team meetings among the teachers, a remediation lab that helps students who are behind in a skill level, and credit recovery for high school students.
Finally, comes this comment:

"We've seen great gains for systems that have students that come from low incomes, but it depends on the personalized instruction of the schools. That's where you'll notice the real improvement," said Rachel Woods, an Education Department spokeswoman.

I really believe that personalized instruction is really hard and expensive to get in larger district schools. The day we moved away from smaller neighborhood schools was a dark day for our children, our families and our neighborhoods. It's good to read of the success in Chester County. And to read that rural and poor doesn't have to mean dumb.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Brave and Free

We buried my nephew on Veteran's Day in northern Wisconsin on a day that broke weather records for its warmth and which mirrored the kindness of that small town and many strangers.

When we arrived Ben's mom was on the phone with Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind. A man who could not have been better named considering what he was about to do for this grieving family. It seems the Army was able to locate and order my Naval Reserve brother, Ben's uncle serving in Kuwait, to accompany Ben home but it wasn't able to persuade someone in Dover that getting Ben home in time for his own funeral was a high priority. In the next couple of hours Rep. Kind was able to turn that around.

The Army assigned a wonderful woman named Sgt. Thomas to aid my brother and his wife through the whole process. It's one thing to lose your son, it's a whole 'nother battle for civilians to try and interface with the military system. This was Sgt. Thomas' first funeral and she did an outstanding job. It was obvious she was on top of everything and very gracious and accommodating. She displayed a tenderheartedness that is rare.

It was during our conversation with her and the chaplain a couple of hours later to discuss funeral arrangements that she got a phone call on her cell saying that Ben would arrive home in the early morning. The relief to us was huge and it was to her also. She shut her phone saying "Thank you, Jesus. Now I can breath." and then after a short pause "I could sure use a cold one." It was a wonderfully honest moment and while she was embarrassed at the mention of liquor in front of the chaplain, apparently, we completely understood and got a chuckle out of her comment. We were at least equally relieved.

Within moments Cong. Kind's office was ringing my brother's phone and the funeral director was walking in and confirming what Sgt. Thomas had just told us. Ben was on the move and things were back on track.

The only sticking point in the arrangements seemed to be that my brother and his wife wanted there to be fireworks after the visitation. Ben loved fireworks and his last display had been named "Shock and Awe". But, apparently, even small towns have strict regulations. Getting just about whatever they wanted wasn't the problem as a close family friend was in the business. The discussion about how to get around the ordinance, not wanting to have the funeral home suffer the consequences of this display and debating what sort of neighbor wouldn't understand or whether local law enforcement would overlook this special occasion took some time. In the end the large box of fireworks were doled out to those attending the visitation who wanted them, we witnessed a 20 minute display in the funeral home parking lot and the remainder, 'the big stuff', was given to Ben's local Civil Air Patrol buddies. After the visitation they gathered at the home that has regularly hosted this group of young people and the police were called. But no ticket was issued.

If there is any upside to an event like this it's that family makes a special effort to gather. We did the calculating and my brothers and I hadn't all been in the same room since the late '70's when I left home. Most of this diaspora was the result of military service. I was sent to Fort Campbell, one brother did his service in Bahrain and Guantanamo Bay during Gulf War I and my other brother kept the Washington State coastline safe and is currently in Kuwait. We had a lot of catching up to do.

Our conversation with the chaplain was a time of remembering the amazing number of family members, on both sides of Ben's family, that had served in the military and, specifically, the number who, like Ben, had been assigned to Fort Campbell's 101st Airborne.

It was one of those military members that noticed at the visitation that Ben's uniform lacked his Air Assault wings. Representing Fort Campbell was a Sgt. Dorsey. He took the wings off his own uniform and put them on Ben's. It was a touching and telling moment. To the last, his comrades were making sure he had what he needed. To the last they extended themselves and gave what they could.

Just before the funeral dignitaries from the army and local and state politicians paid their respects to my brother and his wife. Ben was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. The last of many awards this remarkable young man received.

My brother spoke briefly at the funeral. He rose to say that his son had taught him many things and one of those was to be a man when it was time.

We were told that some protesters were out front of the church but that a group of vets on motorcycles were between us and them revving their engines in order to drown out the noise. We never saw the protestors. We never heard them. We did see folks lined up outside the funeral home with signs of thanks and blessing. We did see the blocks in front of my brother's house lined with American flags. We did see hundreds come to pay their respects and express their thankfulness for Ben's service. Many had never met Ben but were compelled to come. Their coming and their protection were appreciated by the family.

The two hour drive through the rough backroads of Wisconsin lead us to a relatively new veteran's cemetery and Ben's spot on the lawn. The commitment ceremony was brief. The 21 gun salute was loud and startling after a period of quiet reflection. The folding of the flag and the presentation to Ben's mom, while always heart wrenching to witness, was even more difficult. Somehow my brother and his wife managed to maintain their composure and accept the thanks of a grateful nation.

We were instructed by the military that we couldn't stay for the actual internment. But we ignored that order. We asked the men actually burying Ben's casket if we could see the marker. They didn't hesitate to remove its protective box and let us read:

Spc. Benjamin A. Smith
July 5, 1984 - November 2, 2005

Monday, November 07, 2005

Away for a week.

I'll need to be away for almost a week. Thanks for your patience and your prayers during this time.

Fort Campbell holds a regular memorial service for these patriots on the second Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. Go in Gate 4 (that big main gate on 41A), go to the Welcome Center and they'll get you there.

In the meantime, hug a soldier or a soldier's mom and dad if that's as close as you can get to one.

John 15:13

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

Thank you, God, for Ben and his willingness to serve. Thank you that we know, by first person testimony, that he had a part in freeing a grateful people and keeping a grateful people free.

His mom is quoted as saying: "He believed in the mission and told us he knew what they were doing was right."

When we welcomed my nephew home last year, after his first tour in Iraq, he was dusty, exhausted and very shy about all the attention we lavished on him. He was just doing what he loved to do and knew was the right thing to do. We've had many military members in our family. This is the first time in a long time that we've suffered a loss. His uncle, in the Navy, will escort his body home to a family that understands this sacrifice but is still heartbroken at this loss. Your prayers for their comfort will be appreciated.

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Gen. 50:20

Friday, November 04, 2005

Symphonic Bait and Switch

We're tremendously disappointed to learn that the soloist we expected to hear at Saturday's Lord of the Rings concert has been told at the last minute that she won't be allowed to sing. Apparently, the guest conductor isn't concerned that correspondence between him and the Nashville Symphony stated that a local soloist would be hired, that the soloist has invested time in preparing, that she's actually got an amazing voice well suited to the piece (Mr. Huber hasn't bothered to even listen to her), but prefers instead to use his own traveling soloist.

This is NOT the way to attract symphony patrons. We bought 5 (yes 5!) tickets becauset an artist we love and appreciate was going to perform. We were willing to carve out a considerable chunk of our limited budget to support this local talent--something we're always being challenged to do, and this bait and switch is our reward.

I'm suggesting that Mr. Huber's soloist defer to our Nashville artist, Mr. Huber pay his soloist for her time and recognize that Nashville has top rated talent that's worthy of being heard and appreciated by letting our Nashville artists sing.

The Nashville Symphony
Marketing Department E-mail
2000 Glen Echo Road
Suite 204
Nashville, TN 37215
Phone: 615.783.1200
Fax: 615.783.1575

(Oh, and no, she doesn't know, didn't ask and might even be embarrassed that I've vented in this manner. It's all on me. She can't help it she has friends who are passionate about her career and know quality when they hear it.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Another gun

So are those signs stating no guns allowed on school property too small? Can those high schoolers attending public school not read them? Are schools really so dangerous that you've got to carry a loaded gun? Are the consequences for carrying not severe enough?

This from the Nashville PD just now:

November 2, 2005


A School Resource Officer assigned to Stratford High School a short time ago arrested a 16-year-old sophomore for carrying a fully loaded .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol on campus.

A student’s report to Officer George Patonis regarding the potential presence of the gun led to the investigation. Patonis and Stratford’s principal located the 16-year-old outside the school building skipping class. The pistol was found in the teen’s jacket pocket during a search.

The student told officers he was carrying the gun for protection. He will be charged at Juvenile Court with carrying a firearm on school property.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives will assist in the investigation by helping determine the origin of the gun.

Netflix nonsense

I got a notice this morning telling me I'm part of a class action lawsuit against Netflix. It seems someone took their advertising literally when they said 'unlimited' and 'next day' delivery of the DVD's. That didn't always happen and they've gone whining to a court.

So now, because we had a subscription the plaintiffs have wasted my valuable time by throwing out as broad a net as possible and included me in their foolish waste of effort. The notice says I have several response options none of which fits what I really want to do.

I want an option that says: I don't want to be a part of this suit. I wasn't harmed. I don't want one free month of service. I don't want to bring my own lawsuit. I don't want these plaintffi's speaking for me or counting me in the numbers of folks they're representing.

I want an option that says--this was a waste of my time, the court's time, taxpayer resources, and the plaintiffs should be ordered to get a real life.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Pop quiz

Nashville's police department pulled a pop quiz on local high school football attendees. The quiz had just one question and 4 young men failed.

Officers working Friday night’s football game at Whites Creek High School arrested a total of four persons for carrying guns after school administrators made the unannounced decision to use handheld metal detectors to screen persons coming through the gate. None of the four is a Whites Creek student.
“It is illegal to carry guns on school property at all times, and that certainly includes sporting events,” Chief Ronal Serpas said, noting that even persons with handgun carry permits cannot carry guns on school property. “School administrators have done exactly the right thing in arranging for this type of unannounced weapons screening.”

From MNPD Press release dated 10/31/05
Thanks guys.

It's past time for cyber schools

"Imagine if Tennessee's state legislators of yesteryear had banned overhead projectors in schools; prohibited educational filmstrips, movies and audio recordings in the classroom; or outlawed computers to supplement traditional holdings in school libraries. Unfortunately, Tennessee's legislators of today may have made a mistake of an even greater magnitude by forbidding cyber charter schools and precluding the use of a technological tool that can advance learning in our state."

All that from the latest Tennessee Center for Policy Research Policy Brief, Cyber Charters in the volunteer State: Education Options for Tennessee's Forgotten. Shaka Mitchell makes some excellent points and I encourage every educator, legislator and parent to consider her arguments for cyber charter schools. Maybe her best is:

"One reason alternatives to the conventional public school system have experienced little traction is that charter schools, vouchers and magnet schools are largely considered options for improving urban schools. Everyone feels good about providing education options for minority kids in Memphis, but this attitude leaves out a large percentage of the population. More than a quarter of the state's population is considered rural..."

and then goes on to pointing out that cyber charters could be just what families in Rhea County, and others like them, need. She's exactly correct.

"It's outrageous that people have to drive 40 miles one-way to find a high school that offers a full range of classes. In Rhea, there is only one high school. If, in a given year, there is little interest in taking Physics for college credit, then the course will probably not be offered. "

Go read the rest, it's only five pages, and then contact your legislators and ask them "Why not?" Ask the Governor, in light of the the recent Governor's Association study and his own trip to Japan and his bemoaning the lack of scientist coming out of Tennessee schools, "Why not?"

Policies that work

The National Governor's Association for Best Practices. "Providing Quality Choice Options in Education" says that the following are being used to increase student achievement and graduation rates across the nation.

Innovative school choice policies highlighted in the report include:

  • strengthening and broadening charter laws;
  • supporting transportation costs for low-income students;
  • expanding eligibility for students to take college courses in high school;
  • increasing the availability of virtual course offerings;
  • providing equitable funding for all education providers;
  • adopting school-based funding mechanisms; and
  • offering tuition assistance for students to attend non-public K-12 schools.
Tennessee has a long history of hindering many of these sorts of innovations. Our charter schools law is exceptionally constraining and seems designed to make them fail. Despite Al Gore inventing the Internet and helping inact a tax to provide online access to schools his own home state doesn't lead in e-learning which can be a very efficient and cost effective education delivery system. And we should surely understand by now that the folks best able to determine how to spend the money are usually those closest to its intended use.

The problem with most of these suggestions is that it requires someone to give up the power and authority they have. Power and authority that they've held for a long time and they will not give up easily.

Page 12 mentions our value-added system as being helpful.

This morning's Nashville City Paper has an article on this report. And for some odd reason their article left off the suggestion of offering tuition assistance for students to attend non-public K-12 schools.


Today's Tennessean contains a "Nashville Eye" column that needs to be read and responded to. Not responded to by printing an excuse in the next edition of the paper, but responded to with legitimate action. La Quita Martin writes what I've heard from parents over and over. No one is listening. This is basic folks. No business survives without making it's customers feel like they're valued. Every successful business knows that without customers you have no business. Ms. Martin explains in today's column why she's no longer a public school parent.

[Director of Schools Pedro] Garcia never has grasped one tried and true, critical ingredient for a successful school — the buy-in from parents.

Instead, he ignored the parents of the students. Personally, during my five years with the system, he did not answer one letter that I wrote to him, nor did he return even one phone call. Parent groups in which I participated requested meetings which fell on a deaf ear. At school board meetings I attended, I watched him leave the room when parents spoke.

I'm sure they'll be some good reasons for some of this 'ignoring'. Regardless, her overall impression is the impression of lots of parents and THAT should not be ignored another moment longer.

The school system can no longer assume that they have the support of the parents of the children enrolled there. Surely our recent tax referendum proved that. The system seems to be squandering the good will and earnest desire of the most involved parents. These are the very parents that want to make the case for public schooling. Many of them believe, with a nearly religious fervor, that this is the best way to educate children. Many are loathe to choose a private education. But eventually, what they cannot get around is that their children have needs that must be met.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday 10/30/05

It's Halloween, so bats in the attic seems appropriate--

Channel 9 is reporting bats and mold at Jasper Middle school in Chattanooga.

Indefinite sentences--

Those Dandridge boys who plotted to kill their middle school teacher and accidentally shot one of themselves in the leg were sentenced to "indefinite state custody".

An extracurricular distraction and tarnished star--

I've just got it stuck in my head that schools are for learning basic skills. But time and again the public schools are spending loads of time, money and other resources on the non-essentials. Memphis City Schools had to spend a good bit of time dealing with the suspension of and subsequent appeal of that suspension by a high school football star accordinig to the Commercial Appeal. The 'star' plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault of a 15 year old girl and he gets to stay on the team.

20% isn't nearly enough--

Mr. Scott Niswonger is quoted in the Greenville County paper during a teacher of the year ceremony.

“It’s believed that a student retains about 20 percent of what they learn in the classroom, but the life experiences will last for a lifetime

Speaking of life experiences---

The Lawrence County school system has a shop class that may be the ticket to breaking that 20% barrier.

Students in a Lawrence County school system masonry trade course will help build a new classroom facility for the program.

Something similar was done at my high school. The school was built on what was pretty much farm land. The shop classes OJT'd in new housing construction nearby. The guys (we were just on the cusp of the 'women's liberation' movement and my own appearance in drafting class was remarkable so yes, it's was just guys) learned construction trades and the city got an undeveloped area settled and on the tax roles.

Oh, the teacher of the year?

Dawn Werner of Fairmount Elementary.

Let's encourage this sort of fund raising--

The Nashville City Paper reports that a local rapper has donated a considerable sum toward local schools as a result of the efforts fo the Nashville Alliance for Public Education.
Rapper and Nashville native David “Young Buck” Brown recently donated $25,000 to Metro’s Advancement Via Individual Determination program, an initiative to help would-be first generation college students succeed in high school.
Buck, who did not complete high school, expressed interest in supporting dropout prevention programs, according to NAPE Co-Executive Director Kay Simmons.

Let me know when he really starts walking the talk and gets his high school diploma.

Oh, if rapper fans are looking for a real role model--

they might seriously consider being mentored by Sarah Moore Greene in Knoxville.

Let's hope this works--

Citing a study done by Vanderbilt university last year TennCare will try and reduce the amount of mental-health drugs given to our school children beginning in January of 2006.

"TennCare has seen dramatic increases in potentially harmful levels of utilization, with unproven therapies, to treat children living with depression or ADHD," Hickey said in a news release. From the Southern Standard.
There is certainly a need for some children to be medicated. But across the nation this trend is the same. What used to be considered normal wiggling and standard 'boy' behavior has morphed into a mental problem. So much so that legislation has been introduced in several states to come to the aid of parents who disagree with teachers who are demanding children be medicated.

See HB 1971 for a Tennessee example. Check with Bobbie Patray if you want to help her protect the children and parental rights.

Ludicris extra-curricular activities eat up more resources--

Finally, the band gets to play. Details in the Houston Chronicle, the Indianapolis Star, the UK, and the Booneville Daily News. Glad we got that cleared up.

Katrina, Rita & Wilma means more expensive schools--

according to this Knox News report.

Rising construction prices have hit all building projects, not just schools, hard. Over the last few months, costs have jumped more than 20 percent on projects across Tennessee, according to Lola Potter, spokeswoman for the state Department of Finance and Administration.
No. 1 reason teachers lose their license--

sexual misconduct. Probably because it's so difficult to fire them for failing to teach or general misconduct. But this is a step in the right direction.

New rules passed by the state board last week would also allow for administrators to lose their licenses if they fail to report teachers who resign after allegations emerge. From the Tennessean.


The rules still must be passed by the state attorney general and the Government Operations Committee. From WKRN