Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Blank Check Won't Solve This Problem

Metro Mayor Bill Purcell is looking into a $541 Million for the Nashville Metro Schools this next year. And that's $30 Million less than was requested. Now granted Metro has the largest number of students, but it is the 2nd highest spending in the state per child, with Memphis being first. Now I would have no problem with this except for the fact that those two are the WORST performing school districts in the state. But for some reason the government has determined that simply throwing money at the problem is the way to fix it rather than actually looking into what is causing such bad numbers. The fact that the students don't have the enthusiasm that they need to try to succeed. They have all their friends and the people around them telling them "Oh, you're never going to succeed. Whatever you do it's not going to get you anywhere so why bother trying."

Well, I was at my high school the first year we had a Drafting program there. We started with literally nothing. There were barely 2 classes, splitting I think 3 sections. (2 beginning and one Architectural) The desks we worked on were taken from another school that was about to throw them away. We had the most basic of drafting tools, our own pencil, a compass, an eraser guard, a ruler, and that's it. We had used textbooks that were older than the students, and one computer that had to struggle to run the most basic AutoCAD program, and that was it. But you know what we did? We worked, and we worked hard at what we did. And you know what happened? The person who was in charge of giving money for the class would see that. There wasn't any goofing off in class, no slacking or anything, just genuine work. By the end of the year our old wooden stools had been replaced with new ones that had a back to them. The next year we got new Dell computers with AutoCAD 200 Light because the school board people had seen what we did. The next year we got licenses for Inventor (A 3-D Modeling program) for the students.

Now there are 6 full classes of at least 30 students in each, and the teacher has to turn away more than 50 students a year. There are a few classes for introductory drafting, some for Architectural, and some for 3-D Modeling. A close friend of mine went to TSU and took the drafting course there, at the end of the semester he was offered to teach the class because he knew more than the professors.

Side not to the story - The Pre-Engineering program after 1 year of amazing work, followed by 3 years of no success was completely dropped from the curriculum. Why? Because sometimes you just have to cut down a dead tree.

*UPDATE* - Metro schools have posted a 10% increse in reading proficiency as well as over 8% in other subjects such as math. This puts them right about at the state average now. Could this be a turn around for the district, or a 1 time deal?