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Old 03-08-2016, 06:18 AM
 
Location: Tennessee
28,477 posts, read 21,364,064 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wombattver View Post
I think something that hurts this area are the schools. There is a very wide disparity between the good schools and the poor schools. Although the middle schools and high schools look like they have high ratings, if you look at the test scores, there are a disturbing amount of proficiency scores in the 60% and 70% range (and below) which would mean Ds and Cs. Not very impressive. The middle schools and many elementary schools lack any kind of accelerated or gifted programs. The 9th graders at Science Hill take Algebra 1 whereas my child started Algebra 1 in 6th grade. Such schools make it difficult to recruit families to move here and, I think, also contribute to people leaving the area to raise a family. It seems most transplants to this area are either retirees or college students and the Tri-cities have a lot to offer to such people, but not so much for families with school-age children. JMO
I'd agree about a lot of the county schools being lackluster. When I was at Sullivan Central in the early 2000s, it was pretty shocking how many more AP programs Dobyns-Bennett had that we didn't, especially anything computer oriented, which was not all that common back then. A lot of my friends and myself were interested in technology, and the county schools had virtually nothing. That's not even counting sports and other extracurricular clubs.

The school realized the deficiencies in some areas, and allowed juniors/seniors to drive to Northeast State and get college and high school credit for some classes.

I think Science Hill especially would have ample offerings for all but the most gifted or special needs students. Are the Johnson City schools as good as those in wealthier communities like Brentwood or Franklin? Probably not, but I think they're doing fine with what they have to work with.
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Old 03-08-2016, 07:03 AM
 
Location: Gray, TN
2,163 posts, read 3,964,106 times
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Evaluating Schools. I think we do a pretty poor job of it.

All this testing leads to teaching to the test and not actual learning.

Schools should be evaluated on how well the students are prepared for life. Along these lines I would propose the following metrics:

1. SAT/ACT scores for the students that want to go to college. I know this is a test, but it is the gatekeeper to colleges nationwide and it matters, but only to the students interested in higher ed.
2. A 5 year census: conduct a census by mail for 5 years after graduation. Determine status of the former student. Are they gainfully employed, completed college, incarcerated, etc?
3. A 10 year census: conduct a census by mail for 10 years after graduation. Determine status of the former student. Are they gainfully employed, completed college, incarcerated, etc?
4. School systems that score well could be exempted from the standardized testing requirements because they are obviously doing their jobs. No need to burden them with silly standardized tests.

Other things I'd like to see done in schools:
1. Offer more skilled trade apprenticeships for juniors and seniors.
2. Require a "senior seminar" that basically lays out the next steps and requires the student to make a detailed plan for their next 5-10 years and assists them in figuring out how to get there.
3. Increase class sizes. There is significant research that says the quality of the teacher matters much more than student to teacher ratio. So I keep the best teachers, pay them more, and reduce their paperwork by adding additional teachers aids so they can concentrate on what they do best... teaching.
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Old 03-08-2016, 09:44 AM
 
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Some good ideas, rccrain, but maybe pretty difficult to implement. There are some sites that publish average ACT and SAT scores. It's so difficult to evaluate a school on paper - the atmosphere is very important, not just test scores. Good students with caring, engaged teachers can thrive even at poorly-rated schools. Schools in Brentwood and Franklin definitely rate much higher in some areas, but not by too much in other areas. I do think that when companies are trying to attract and retain employees in the Tri-Cities the schools are a deciding factor for families.
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Old 03-08-2016, 10:30 AM
 
Location: Seattle
6,514 posts, read 14,776,331 times
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My thinking lies the opposite range. The schools performing poorly need fewer standardized tests. We already know they're performing poorly. Reduce their paperwork and bring in the additional aids to these schools.

I'd agree that schools especially in rural NETN need more classes on practical life skills. What are credit cards, how do they work, what is a credit score, how does it affect your ability to borrow money, etc. What are the actual employable degrees, how to succeed in college, etc. How to live on $15,000 a year (a very important topic in low wage rural areas...) How to recognize drugs, how to identify when somebody is tweaked out. What drugs do to your body and your finances. Not taught by a stiff shirtwaist cop, but preferably by somebody with specialized training in counseling.

Bottom line is schools in NETN pay bottom dollar, so they tend to attract the worst teachers. Just like any other industry. It is what it is. No testing needed to understand getting what you pay for. We run our teachers ragged trying to gauge their effectiveness when it's absolutely not necessary.
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Old 03-08-2016, 11:44 AM
 
Location: Gray, TN
2,163 posts, read 3,964,106 times
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I'll agree with that Jabogitlu. One of the main reasons private schools have the ability to do more with less $ is fewer layers of bureaucracy and paperwork. Another reason is that they do not have to maintain special ed curriculum and can expel troublesome students/parents.

I also agree that teachers in the county schools are underpaid. Do you think there's a significant migration of the talented teachers from the county to the city because of this? IMO the city school pay is pretty good; it seems to be on par or better than other professionals, especially when you factor in benefits.
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Old 03-08-2016, 11:52 AM
 
Location: Johnson City, TN
667 posts, read 825,761 times
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The schools in Johnson City and Kingsport are among the best in the state which is made even more impressive when considering the economic and demographic diversity seen within the systems. Brentwood, Franklin, Germantown, and the like are wealthy communities which one would expect to have above-average schools. JC and Kingsport, while not poor by any stretch, are not exactly prosperous either so the fact that the schools perform at such a high level and have some of the highest salaries in the state is notable.

The real area for improvement is in the county schools. I feel like their struggle will continue, however, as they are being hit with a double-whammy of declining enrollment due to an aging population (meaning less funding from the state) and a shrinking tax base from industry losses and shrinking population meaning less available local funding.

What really needs to happen is to abandon not just the city-county school split but move beyond the county level to a regional school district. Encompass all of upper East TN in one or two districts providing equitable funding for schools and teachers in both the rural and urban areas. The three main cities (Bristol, Kingsport, and JC) are the economic engines of the region but the poverty and lack of education in the surrounding region inhibits growth. The current county-based structure of schools is horribly outdated and it is time to move on.
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Old 03-08-2016, 12:12 PM
 
Location: Seattle
6,514 posts, read 14,776,331 times
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Quote:
Do you think there's a significant migration of the talented teachers from the county to the city because of this? IMO the city school pay is pretty good; it seems to be on par or better than other professionals, especially when you factor in benefits.
Sure, I'd think that the cream usually rises to the top. Several of the better teachers I had at Chuckey Doak (one of the better performing county high schools in the area, I'd think...) have since moved onto the much more highly regarded Greeneville High.

A significant factor when discussing educators is the fact that many folks are leaving the profession altogether (including my mom). The level of bureaucracy, hyper politicized decision-making, and effective removal of any discretion at the classroom level has burnt out many of our best teachers.

I think for many areas of NETN that Rangerred's suggestion is at least worth thorough discussion and analysis. I'd wager that many counties and cities could just become metro governments altogether. This probably isn't a solution in the big two (Sullivan & Washington), but otherwise...
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Old 03-08-2016, 12:40 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
28,477 posts, read 21,364,064 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rccrain View Post
I'll agree with that Jabogitlu. One of the main reasons private schools have the ability to do more with less $ is fewer layers of bureaucracy and paperwork. Another reason is that they do not have to maintain special ed curriculum and can expel troublesome students/parents.

I also agree that teachers in the county schools are underpaid. Do you think there's a significant migration of the talented teachers from the county to the city because of this? IMO the city school pay is pretty good; it seems to be on par or better than other professionals, especially when you factor in benefits.
Definitely think there is a drain of talent into the cities. A buddy of mine got on with the Unicoi County schools as a high school science teacher a few years back, and with a BS in a science field and MEd, and started just below $40k. From what I've heard, the pay in the JC schools STARTS around $40k for any field. I'd guess non science/math and lower grade teachers probably start in low $30k range.

I know a couple of teachers in their 40s-50s in the area and many want to get in the city school system.
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Old 03-08-2016, 02:15 PM
 
Location: Johnson City, TN
667 posts, read 825,761 times
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Quote:
From what I've heard, the pay in the JC schools STARTS around $40k for any field. I'd guess non science/math and lower grade teachers probably start in low $30k range.
JC schools do start at $40k for a BA/BS with no experience however the pay scale is the same regardless of what grade level/subject is taught. The pay is also significantly higher than the surrounding counties. For example someone with a Master's and 10 years experience will make 10-15k more in JC than Carter or Unicoi County.
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Old 03-08-2016, 02:20 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
28,477 posts, read 21,364,064 times
Reputation: 34962
Quote:
Originally Posted by jabogitlu View Post
My thinking lies the opposite range. The schools performing poorly need fewer standardized tests. We already know they're performing poorly. Reduce their paperwork and bring in the additional aids to these schools.

I'd agree that schools especially in rural NETN need more classes on practical life skills. What are credit cards, how do they work, what is a credit score, how does it affect your ability to borrow money, etc. What are the actual employable degrees, how to succeed in college, etc. How to live on $15,000 a year (a very important topic in low wage rural areas...) How to recognize drugs, how to identify when somebody is tweaked out. What drugs do to your body and your finances. Not taught by a stiff shirtwaist cop, but preferably by somebody with specialized training in counseling.

Bottom line is schools in NETN pay bottom dollar, so they tend to attract the worst teachers. Just like any other industry. It is what it is. No testing needed to understand getting what you pay for. We run our teachers ragged trying to gauge their effectiveness when it's absolutely not necessary.
One of the things I've heard from my uncle who has one daughter who graduated recently from Central (2014) and one still there is how surprised he is at how bad at least this school has gotten, especially compared to what my experience was and the experience of some of his neighbors, most of whom had kids closer to our age. Administration has had high turnover, teachers have had high turnover, the building itself is deteriorating, etc. There doesn't appear to be continuity anywhere.

I know it's all anecdotal, but I don't think his oldest daughter at least had anywhere near the quality of education I got. She did well at Central, but has ended up in a lot of remedial classes at UT-Chattanooga. The rubber is not meeting the road at Central, and the same could probably be said for many county schools.

I had a truly remarkable English teacher, German teacher, and US history teacher, but many of the rest of the teachers were entirely forgettable or were clearly just drawing a paycheck. Two of those teachers were 60+ then and are now well into their 70s. The English teacher was also a pastor and had a couple of run-ins regarding religion - I never found him preachy, but he's since left the public schools. Losing those folks was a huge hit - the younger teachers then were generally nowhere near the quality of the older ones, many of whom were close to my grandparents' age. Some teachers even had various side businesses they took calls on during school hours - one founded a locally popular realty company and is thankfully out the public schools.

In a lot of ways, I think teachers have their hands tied - many are so afraid of being falsely accused of impropriety, overloaded with bureaucracy, poor legislation, or even coaching duties that education takes a backseat to the other stuff. The three teachers I mentioned above would talk about politics, religion, and other things that made them relatable and easier to learn from - today, people would probably want the teachers fired for some of the stuff we did, which I didn't find unacceptable at all, then or now. I didn't agree with a lot of their views, but at least it made me think. Those problems aren't really local issues though.

I think a lot of locals who go into teaching and stay around do so because they want to remain local and there isn't a lot of solid middle class employment left in the area. They may not even be a good fit for teaching, but it's one of the better local options. When I was growing up, many parents of my peers worked as scientists, engineers, and other middle to upper middle class professions at Eastman and other manufacturing facilities - today, the number of those middle class jobs are certainly reduced. That generation is at or near retirement, and our generation was often not able to find similar paying work and had to leave.

I don't think it's as much bad candidates as it is people who probably want to remain local at any cost and are just not a good fit for education possibly going into it, and I also believe the rural teachers are dealing with a much lower-end (and likely lower achievement ceiling) demographic than they were fifteen or twenty years ago.
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