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NCLB Outrages

Test Data Leaves Out Hugs, Food, Haircuts

Ohanian Comment: Imagine citing such "soft data" as revealing the worth of a school.

While reams of increasingly available test data helps show how schools are performing, some of the most telling details do not show up on any report card.

Nowhere do schools have to report if their teachers walk children home from school, help buy warm clothes, stock snacks for those who miss breakfast, provide free tutoring after school or even the occasional hair cut.

Yet all these things are happening at Glenn Enhanced Option School and this year the school met all but one federal benchmark where last year the school missed six.

"We realize that self-esteem is a lot of how a person performs," Glenn Title I Curriculum Coordinator Dorcel Benson said. "We really work on making a child feel good about themselves."

When children at Glenn, which is 100 percent economically disadvantaged, were offered the choice to transfer to a higher performing school under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, just three of 330 students left, according to Benson.

"We all believed a strong sense of community and ownership was absolutely essential," Benson said, adding they share that sense of pride with the parents.

Schools also do not have to report parent involvement or support.

Four years ago, McGavock High School would have failed that mark miserably, according to Metro School Board Vice-Chair Kathy Nevill.

McGavock High at the time had the highest zero tolerance offense rate in the state.

"When I came on the board in 2000, the McGavock cluster was on life support," Nevill said, later adding, "You couldn't pay people to come [here] before."

Now Nevill will find a way in any conversation to brag about McGavock schools.

A fourth of the McGavock freshmen passed the algebra Gateway in eighth grade; all but two McGavock schools met NCLB standards; and the football stands are full, according to Nevill.

Gary Shirley is one of the parents who has changed his tune about McGavock.

"It's really easy as a parent to get caught up in the excitement here," Shirley said at a McGavock principal appreciation lunch. "Three years ago, we would not have sent our daughter here."

Shirley was less supportive in past years because of leadership that he said was not receptive to parent involvement.

Now he calls Dupont-Tyler Principal Carol Cutsinger a "champion for parents," which he said in turn motivates raising money for band, sports and computer equipment for the school.

District-wide, Board Chair Pam Garrett said the elementary schools are benefiting from a focus on developing a standards-based curriculum.

First and second graders at Joelton Elementary are progressing through the reading curriculum so quickly, the school recently held a fundraiser to buy more books, according to Garrett.

"When we're able to teach children and keep them on grade level in the elementary years, we're going to be able to deal with them better academically in the later years," Garrett said. "It has to flow on up the ladder."

While some may hope it flows quicker, McGavock parent Steve Glover cautions against anyone gauging schools by a report card.

"Forget NCLB. You can't govern morale," Glover said. "You can't govern efficient progress. Our positives outweigh out negatives."

— Katharine Mosher
Nashville City Paper


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