Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dean not capable of making education decisions

The one major problem with Mayor Karl Dean's town hall meeting tour of areas served by Nashville public schools is that he is part of it.

For the most part in school districts moving forward, such meetings are conducted by educators. They are the most skilled at rescuing children and making the decisions to do so with the resources available. That's what happening in Memphis City Schools where the school district is implementing brave new plans to keep student achievement ahead of No Child Left Behind requirements.

A mayor is not supposed to be involved unless things are going wrong. And they are in Nashville public schools, as the district comes under state control because of failing to meet NCLN standards.

Dean heard last night from Stratford High School patrons and teachers that the school is not even meeting constitutional requirements. Education there is separate and unequal, compared to a prominent south Nashville School. In addition, school district plans to close Cora Howe Elementary School is a tragedy.

I've personally seen the Reading Recovery program there at work with children needing heroic help. And I've seen the immediate difference in the ability of these children to read. There is no greater happiness than in the reaction of a child who finally gets it, who has finally connected to a broad beautiful world of learning.

Yet Dean, in an interview with The Tennessean's Gail Kerr, contended that education was one of his successes for his first year in office. And this man is going to make things right in Nashville public schools? That's like the mother of Britney Spears writing a book on raising children. She has? Wow, things really are bad in this country.

Kerr's column didn't help the local schools' situation. It was a puff piece marveling at how the mayor likes cafeteria food and is willing to sip milk with first graders. But the food is not good enough for him to send his children to public schools.

Dean is a protege of Gov Phil Bredesen. Uncle Breddy -- then Mayor Bredesen -- never sent his child to Nashville public schools either. Yet he implemented a political curriculum that left even more children behind and set the stage for Metro's current troubles with NCLB.

Educators, not chamber officials or mayors, should be about the business of righting schools and the futures of children. They have the expertise and experience. The education bureaucracy, however, must be kept in check. And that's where politicos can come in and set standards of accountability on annual performance to track improvement. That's where they should come in and even shift out entire faculties and administrators of a school failing to meet needed standards.

But education decisions ultimately must be left to those educated to do so, just as surgery is left with the surgeon, not the adminstrator running the hospital.

Again, Nashville should look to Memphis on how to run a successful school district. There, a progressive city is making plans to move from good to excellent in educating children of all skill levels and giving taxpayers their monies' worth.

To read more on last night's town hall meeting, go to:


No comments: