Roy Exum: UTC Graduates Only 48.5%

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

After I wrote a story that appeared on Chattanoogan.com (The Disciple Dilemma, Feb. 28, 2021), among the emails were several from dear friends who have been classroom educators, that appealed to me very much. I fear, as do many others who are concerned about our upcoming generations, that for the Tennessee State Legislature to ramrod a sorely needed ‘The Teacher’s Discipline Act,’ it could be that the State of Tennessee would be better off tasking ourselves to consider the “total child” and the state’s archaic education format, rather than what is characterized as a behavior disorder.

If, indeed, our Hamilton County Department of Education is off the rails, how is that reflected in the outcomes of such colleges as Chattanooga State Community College, or at UT-Chattanooga, a four-year college that issues Bachelor degrees? It’s a valid question so let’s go there.

Our source is UnivStats.com, which claims its information comes from IPEDS (The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System), of U.S. Department of Education, academic year 2019-2020:

* -- CHATTANOOGA STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE – A two-year college, Chattanooga State’s graduation rates are based on 150% attendance (3 years). The 2020 tuition for instate students was $4,358, although there is “free admission” through the state in many varieties. Chattanooga State has about 8,200 students and the most recent graduation rates show that 309 students out of 1,581 candidates completed their degree within 150% of the 2 years allotted. The most recent graduation rate was 19.54%.

Can you believe this? The State of Tennessee might as well be charged with child abuse. Imagine the student loans perpetuated on 4-out-of-5 who will never finish the race. Student loans prop up the sham, Chatt State pockets the tuition and fees, and then the suckers have monthly payments but zero to show. Doesn’t that make you swell with pride?

* -- UT-CHATTANOOGA – A four-year university that offers bachelor’s degrees, in-state tuition at UT-Chattanooga is about $10,000 a year. With approximately 12,000 students, those who received their degree within six years within 150% of normal time (four years plus two) were 1,130 students out of 2,331 candidates for a graduation rate of 48.48%.

But wait … the 1,130 who get a degree paid … what? … $60,000, right? How can Governor Bill Lee and the Legislature pour millions upon millions into our colleges when they outright swindle the castaways? Over 50 percent who enroll at UTC are going to fail at it – but … they were never schooled to succeed! They never stood a cut dog’s chance, but we taught them if they didn’t attend college they were unworthy. Please!

In short, that four out of five fail at Chatt State and over half never graduate from UTC is a criminal ploy. This is totally unacceptable, particularly when we are told, that at The University of Tennessee - Chattanooga, 50.0% of incoming students take out a loan to help defray freshman year costs, averaging $5,995 apiece. This amount includes both private and federally funded student loans. (The average federal loan is $5,067, which is 92.1% of the first year borrowing cap of $5,500 for the typical first-year dependent student.)

It takes six years to get a degree, at $5 grand a year, that’s $30,000 in debt to go with the diploma. You watch what I tell you – a Day of Reckoning is about to befall America’s college campuses because all across our nation, the arrogant trustee, the far-left liberal professors, the greedy alumni barkers, and the millionaire coaches have gone way too far. The fed-up legislators who see those they represent being led by a Judas sheep, have had quite enough and just wait until the public outcry, led by fathers and mothers without means to pay the exorbitant tuitions, grab their pitch forks, tar, and feathers. You ain’t seen nothing like what’s coming. Just watch.

My view is that we must go deeper, far more backwards to the third-grade child who cannot read or do math at the grade level. If you can’t do the work, it is very obvious the inferior product coming out of the Hamilton County Schools is slowly killing Chattanooga State and UTC

Now, let’s spend a minute with a wonderful teacher who is teaching me why public educator is now horribly suffering. This makes all the sense in the world as I wonder why we have gotten so bad. I cannot yet reveal the identity – who knows how vicious retribution can be – but I can share the lesson:

* * *

HOW EDUCATION IN OUR AMERICA WENT WRONG

Some background: The “High School Movement” began in the United States in 1910 and continued through the start of World War Two.  It began, primarily, in the Midwest and was a result of middle-class families wanting their children to be prepared for a managerial role in growing American industry.  In 1910, approximately, 10% of Americans had graduated from high school. By 1940, that percentage was approximately 50%.  Everyone else went to the factories and assembly lines.

After World War Two, especially after Sputnik, the movement for everyone to go to high school and graduate began.  Dropout rates in the 1960s and early 1970s were still very high but there were still assembly line and factory jobs for those dropouts.  The gradual demise of manufacturing jobs brought the dropout rate into sharper focus. 

The “Nation at Risk” report during the Reagan Administration called the dropout rate a “risk to national security.”  That began the “race” to eliminate dropouts.

American public education still resembles, in most cases, an industry with an assembly line and a “product.”  The American high school of the early “High School Movement” produced graduates/products to fill a need.  It moved in a very linear fashion. 

A student moved down the “assembly line” from grade to grade as the factory workers/teachers continued the process.  If a student did not meet the requirements, the student was held back, and the deficiencies were addressed.  At the end of the line: a graduate with a fairly clear skill set and prepared for the world of work. 

Teachers taught...students learned, and all was well with the world. 

American industry was forced to change by the pressures of global competition. Auto industries were forced to change their methods by competition from the Japanese and Germans. Many industries failed to adapt and went under.  Public education is one of the few major “American industries” that is still functioning on the linear model of the 1940s. Normally, industries which turn out a product that does not meet even minimum expectations of its customers does not survive.  Public education, lacking any meaningful competition, keeps chugging along. 

Yes, public education is an “industry.” Its bottom line is the most holy of all sacred cows: the Almighty Graduation Rate. Anything, including more stringent disciplinary measures that might impact the graduation rate are unacceptable.  Consequently, it is the only industry that has no control over the “raw materials” involved in the production process. 

Public education is expected to educate “all students.” The assembly line of K-12 education keeps moving and there are multiple parties to the process who don’t want to see any change.  Dozens of Colleges of Education keep churning out students with “teaching degrees” but little practical experience and little standardization of teaching credentials.  Many professors of education have not been in a classroom for years.  Textbook publishers and testing companies do not want to see any change to their very lucrative relationship.

There are approximately 137 elected school boards in Tennessee and over 14,000 nationwide.  Many school board members have never spent a day in a classroom as a teacher. The bureaucrats of the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education seem to have little understanding of what actually happens in a classroom.  The Governor and the Legislature have a vested interest in public education, but apparently little understanding of how the process actually works at the classroom level.  The federal Department of Education has input as do other federal bureaucrats.

 There are dozens of “parent interest groups” with their own agendas.  Teachers’ organizations do not want to see the expansion of Charter Schools or other forms of school choice. Colleges and universities want students who are “college ready” and able to pay the tuition.  Business, industry, and the trades want employees with the appropriate skill set. 

Some people want more social-emotional learning, and some groups demand more civics.  Some groups beat the drum for more STEM related classes despite the lack of basic literacy and math skills. Very often, one end of the assembly line has no idea what is going on in the process at the other end.

 There is limited communication up and down the chain from the primary years to the middle to the secondary.  There is apparently no communication between K-12 education and colleges, universities, and the world of employment. Most teachers simply stick to their small piece of the process. The list could go on.

Teachers and students are caught up in the “gears.” Students move relentlessly down the assembly line... moving from grade to grade regardless of their reading or math skills.  Students are not instructed - in any meaningful sense - in how to develop the “soft skills” so necessary in a rapidly changing workplace.

Approximately 90% of incoming 9th graders believe that they are going to college but very little of the standard high school experience actually prepares them for college.  Many of these students end up in Tennessee’s Community Colleges believing that they are, in fact, “college ready.” The graduation rates at Tennessee Community Colleges would suggest that this is not the case. (Note: I have been associated with Chattanooga State (let’s say from a distance) so I have some understanding of this aspect of the problem.)

Business, industry, the trades, apprenticeship programs and other employers want employees with a useful skill set...not the usual product of many public high schools.

Teachers are not simply teachers, coaches, and mentors anymore … No, teachers are now counselors, suicide prevention experts, social workers, dieticians/food providers, nurses, technology experts, child abuse experts, child trafficking experts, school safety experts, Social-Emotional learning experts, mental health professionals, and countless other roles that have little to do with subject matter.

They are required to implement every “top down, good idea from the Educational-Industrial complex” and do it well and with little warning and little training.  Rarely do these good ideas stay in place long enough to demonstrate their impact.  They are rapidly replaced by the next top down “good idea!”

Many of these good ideas are designed to produce “data.” The data students produce every year from state mandated tests is, quite often, used as a weapon against teachers by higher ups. 

In the early 1980s, Volvo faced a crisis.  It was losing market share and its assembly line process was not competitive.  Volvo executives interviewed assembly line workers and as a result of these conversations implemented the “Kalmar approach.”  Volvos are now assembled by a team. 

The team takes ownership of an auto.  Supervisors are on the manufacturing floor and readily listen to team member feedback.  This Kalmar approach moved Volvo away from the mindless assembly line approach and into a more productive team-oriented approach that had a great impact on Volvo’s quality…and bottom line. 

The American “Educational-Industrial” complex will never consider such a radical idea.  In ten years, the system will still be the same K-12 assembly line that is doing such a disservice to teachers and students.  Teachers will still be regarded as assembly line drones who teach in the approved fashion with little connection to the real world.  Students will continue to move down the conveyor belt towards graduation regardless of their reading level, numeracy level, or skill set. 

Public education is not equipped to adapt to the challenges of a changed reality.  It is not “nimble” enough.  Students live in a world where the requirements of the workplace are constantly changing.  A recent book by two respected business consultants suggested that the skills and knowledge acquired in a degree program in the 1980s had a “lifespan” of about 20-30 years. 

They suggested that education/training acquired since 2006 had a lifespan of about 3-5 years.  This means the education students are acquiring now in high school is out of date, in many cases, before the students enter the workforce.  Yes, we will need some plumbers, electricians, etc. 

But there are not enough jobs in the “trades” to absorb the entire high school cohort every year.  Public schools are trying to prepare students for jobs that do not even exist yet using an assembly line system that is over 100 years old.  But the gears keep turning...and the conveyor belt keeps moving inexorably to graduation.

* * *

That’s right – The Holy Grail. Graduation rates no matter how phony or impure.

And now you know why Chatt State is 20 percent and UT is 48.5.

Read ‘em and weep.

royexum@aol.com


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