Friday, October 3, 2008
Quality of teachers is big issue in Metro schools but accountability rests with elected decisionmakers; time to take problem to court
Since the Tennessee State Lottery was established five years ago, only one student has qualified for free tuition to a state public college from Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church in west Nashville.
The scholarship winner was the daughter of the pastor. Other children and their parents work hard when it comes to education. Vanderbilt University students volunteer in the neighborhood to tutor children after school at Corinthian. These marvelous Vandy students have done so for five years now. And teens at Corinthian get As and Bs.
But their ACT scores only reach 16 and 17. For a scholarship, a score of 19 is needed.
Tennessee State University, a historically black college, has not seen its enrollment go up since the lottery became law. Yet TSU is surrounded by some of the most improverished neighborhoods in Nashville. The cycle of poverty can only be broken with education. LBJ told us that almost a half century ago. The children here, however, cannot qualify for scholarships to enter the higher ed schoolhouse gate.
And TSU just kicked out more than 100 students who couldn't pay their tuition and housing bills. That happens every year. The only difference this year was that the news media finally found out about it.
Parents -- who also are working taxpayers -- feel betrayed. If their children made high grades in Metro Schools, then why couldn't they make a high enough ACT score? Who should they talk to? Who should be held accountable?
The school district should be held accountable. It is the district's responsibility to prepare these children for college for the betterment of all society and a better workforce for businesses. And if the parents are there doing their job with their kids, and the child is making high grades, then what is going wrong here?
The CityPaper had an interesting story today about teacher recruiting organizations seeking to locate in Nashville. Their activity is placing new attention on teacher quality in Metro Schools.
Amy Griffith Graydon, writer of the story, is becoming a fine education reporter. And I have some background in education writing, winning three consecutive national reporting awards from the Education Writers Association in Washington, D.C. And I beat out journalists from The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Read her piece at: http://www.nashvillecitypaper.com/news.php?viewStory=63202
The pastor of Corinthian Baptist, the Rev. Enoch Fuzz, has looked at essays parents bring to him. And the grades on the students' work are As and even A-plus. Yet Fuzz says he finds numerous grammatical errors on the essays.
It would be easy and obvious to blame the teachers. They're the educated and certified professionals. Yet they're also teaching high school classes with 35 students each. That overload certainly is not the teacher's fault. It is the failure of decisionmakers, elected ones, and us. You get what you pay for, or more specifically, what you are not willing to pay for.
Yet we must return to the question: who should be held accountable when students are not trained to qualify at a basic level for lottery scholarships and college educations needed to become professionals for a better society?
The answer is the school district. And when elected officials fail to correct historical wrongs against the same children year after year, then the only remedy is with the courts under the advocacy of a document called the U.S. Constitution.
In Nashville, it is time to sue, sue, sue. Why? For the children, the children, the children.
Fuzz tells the story of a fellow pastor who once preached to his congregation that he had good and bad news.
"The good news is that we know the solution to provide better schools. The bad news is that the money is in your pockets."