McQueen goes ‘preachy,’ bashes TN school turnaround efforts

Start of a Chalkbeat Tennessee story:

In a fiery speech to state lawmakers on Tuesday, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen gave a stinging assessment of Tennessee’s school turnaround work, even calling the outcomes “a little embarrassing.”

McQueen noted that the state has moved only 10 schools off its “priority” list since compiling its first list in 2012, beginning with 83 low performing schools.

“We can’t keep throwing $10 million, $11 million, $12 million, $15 million at solutions that are not solutions,” she told legislators on House education committees.

The remarks were a departure from McQueen’s usual placating tone — and her most direct condemnation of school turnaround work to date in Tennessee. That work includes programs spearheaded both by local districts and the state’s Achievement School District, which has authority to take over schools in the state’s bottom 5 percent, generally assigning them to charter operators.

But her indictment stretched far beyond the state’s role in those programs, which serve mostly poor communities. She took aim at efforts that began with the 2002 federal education law known as No Child Left Behind, which prescribed how states must deal with struggling schools.

“This is probably going to come across as a little preachy, but it is preachy,” said McQueen, who became commissioner in 2014. “We’ve got kids who were sitting in schools that we knew — we knew — and I want you to listen to the years, back in 2002, 2003, 2004, that they were in a low performing school that needed to turn around fast. (Those students have) now graduated, and we did not have the increases we needed at those schools to set them up for success.”

While McQueen didn’t single out specific turnaround initiatives, she stressed that Tennessee needs to focus on what has worked — specifically, at the 10 schools that have been moved off the state’s priority list so far. McQueen named common themes: strong school leaders, quality instruction, and community and wraparound supports, such as mental health care services.

3 Responses to McQueen goes ‘preachy,’ bashes TN school turnaround efforts

  • Avatar
    Michael Lottman says:

    You cannot expect to see improvement in a school or school system that lacks meaningful standards related to real-world requirements and methods of accountability, including testing, that measure both student progress and systemic performance. You also cannot expect improvement in schools that remain segregated by race, ethnicity, and family income and educational levels.

  • Avatar
    Linda says:

    Here in Chattanooga, 20% of students (including my child) go to private schools. It has been the concept of “White Flight” coupled with the knowledge that our public schools in many areas of Hamilton County are segregated and people who have the money are not willing to make their children the “sacrificial lambs” for some great experiment that might or might not work to improve our schools.

    As an educator, I believe we need more great teachers who have been trained by “great teachers” so that they have a clue as to what they should do in the classroom. I would like to see a fully paid internship where, before certification, a student teacher works side-by-side with a PROVEN great teacher for a full year, and then is evaluated and either fully certified or told to go do something else.

    Something has to give in Hamilton County. We have at least five of the state’s poorest performing schools and, yes, they are all Black schools. We need to take the money out of a bloated, do-nothing central office staff and hire better teachers. We need better accountability at all levels. We probably should stop all sports programs in the schools and put that money into better teachers.

    I understand the position that our schools need to be integrated and children of every color and every socio-economic level need to be exposed to each other. But as long as it is relatively easy for good parents to send their children to private school where they can avoid the problems of children who have not learned all the basics at home, including how to act, I don’t see integration happening.

    We need better parents. Parenting–good parenting–is the key to a child’s success in school and in life. It begins and ends at home with good habits as to nutrition, bed time, being taught shapes, colors, letters, and how to read. I did not want to send my child to a school where she would be bored while disadvantaged children learned what she came to school already knowing. WE NEED BETTER PARENTING!

  • Avatar
    Cannoneer2 says:

    Are the Commissioner’s own children still attending private schools?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *