There is a strong likelihood, this based on new data obtained from the Hamilton County Department of Education, that only 700 of this year’s approximately 2,500 high school graduates can tell you what 28 percent of 2,500 is. The 2018 test scores, used to determine what percentage of students in public schools are “scoring on track,” averaged 28.4 percent in our 32 middle and high schools. In a system where every child with a heartbeat (about 2,500) graduates and 44,444 automatically advance, statistically over 70 percent of our high school seniors came up short. That same river flows all the way to our elementary schools.
In the most shocking condemnation of public education that I can ever remember, this year’s cumulative total of 911 percentage points tallied from each of our 32 middle and high schools is just 7 points higher than the 2017 total (904). This is the first time five Chattanooga high schools had “zero” points and there are six other HCDE schools that had less than 10 percent.
Of the 32 schools, only seven were higher than 50 percent, yet in Chattanooga this week there will be a regional meeting on “socioeconomic integration” to draw the public wrath away from the bogus educational foundations that have enabled this catastrophe to occur. The UnifiEd group, established by the liberal elite in 2014, has not affected public education in the least since the inception of its deception.
The Public Education Foundation, now said to have an annual payroll more than $2 million, is quite culpable and the once-promising Chattanooga 2.0 project, created by a desperate Chamber of Commerce two years ago, is also now in the equality business.
This Thursday the misguided UnifiEd political action group and the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition will host an ‘Every Child Succeeds Act’ (ESSA) Regional Meeting at the Bessie Smith Hall from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., promising “a full day of learning about our state's ESSA plan and what it will mean for students and schools in Hamilton County.”
Unfortunately, nobody attending the meeting will be able to inform the group how equity is going to work when education efforts in Chattanooga are clearly failing. According to several members of the School Board, they had no idea the “Students on Track” scores were so dismal because the Department of Education had not shared them with the board. C’mon, you wouldn’t have shared them either! (For a school-by-school account, by subject, see my recent story, ‘Not A Blessed One.)
Several years ago, the innovative “Teach for America” arrived at what is today a classic finding. When children from a sound family setting stopped school for the summer, they came back and tested better than when they left. Children from middle-class homes came back in the fall and picked up from the point they had left, but ‘poverty children’ regressed because they received no reinforcement all summer.
Therefore, a Vanderbilt University study has just found that in the five years the Tennessee Achievement School District has been in operation, it is a failure. Gary Henry, a university researcher and believed to be an expert in education policy, told the Nashville Tennessean, “The model that said to bring in a new manager and give them autonomy and good things will happen … does not work.”
That said, outgoing Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen will seize the operation of five low-performing Hamilton County schools this fall, yet based on the new 2018 test results, the woman could commandeer the entire school district.
Bryan Johnson, the superintendent for the last lackluster year, has replaced almost half of the principals in the district’s 78 schools and has filled his C-suite, as he calls his top administrators, with a top-heavy group of out-of-town talent rather than HCDE veterans. One principal refused to make a comment but, off the record, told me “my teachers are scared … I’ve seen disappointment and concern in their faces … but never fear.”
Asked if he was as shocked as I am that the district average of students “on track” was 28.4 percent, he said, “Nope … I didn’t think it would be that good … this is the worst my faculty has ever seen …”