Bruce Baker has taken notice of all the exciting education reforms happening right here in Tennessee. He thinks they are so great, he’s calling them a smokescreen.
You’re welcome to read the whole post. It has neat graphs and everything. Here’s what I found most interesting:
…what do we know about the great state of Tennessee?
- Tennessee is persistently among the lowest spending states in the country on its public education system.
- Tennessee is not only one of the lowest spenders, but Tennessee spends less as a share of gross state product than most other states.
- Tennessee has one of the largest income gaps between public school enrolled and private school enrolled children, and has among the higher shares of private school enrolled children.
- Tennessee has relatively non-competitive teacher wages with respect to non-teacher wages.
In short, Tennessee is simply NOT investing in schools. And historically, the state hasn’t invested in schools. As others have noted, all the education reform in the world won’t do anything without significant investment.
Baker concludes with this brilliant statement (admonition)?
My point here is that we all need to start looking at the BIG PICTURE regarding these state systems of schooling – the context into which new policies, new strategies, “reforms” if you will, are to be introduced. As I’ve noted previously, even if some of these reform strategies might be reasonable ideas warranting experimentation, whether charter expansion or teacher compensation and licensure reform, none can succeed in a system so substantially lacking in resources, and none can improve the equity of children’s outcomes unless there exists greater equity in availability of resources.
Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that Bluff City Education noted yesterday that Tennessee’s high school graduation rate dropped by 2.2% and that since 2010 (when Tennessee “won” Race to the Top) the state’s ACT scores have remained relatively stagnant.
What Tennessee needs is not more reform for the sake of reform. Tennessee needs a sustained commitment to investment in its schools.