Tuesday, April 5, 2011

UPDATED - Robertson County Schools: By the Numbers - Q&A

My recent post – “Robertson County Schools: By the Numbers” – generated several questions through comments and e-mails. I thought I would take the opportunity to respond to these in a “Q&A” type format.
I would like to include that I do not profess to be an “expert.” And, candidly, I do not have all the solutions to these problems. What I hope is to help be part of the process that generates solutions. I hope that the conversations we have here facilitate that process in some small way. If you have any questions, then please do not hesitate to submit them.
a)    From an e-mail: Just what does “economically disadvantaged” mean?
      Great question. Just goes to show that many times those in education and government sometimes generate their own language in communicating with one another. “Economically disadvantaged” is a term used to describe those who are receiving free or reduced lunches from the federal government.
b)   From a comment: Are you saying that we should be moving resources from out in the county into the city? That the schools with "better" (taken from your "worse" comment) populations should surrender their relatively positive situations to meet the challenge of educating Springfield residents? Why would we want to drag others down with them? How about correct the problems in Springfield by using the "county schools" as a model? If we truly believe all populations can succeed equally, then shouldn't we be able to replicate the successes of our system as appropriate?
      I am saying that the entire County has a problem. If one district is in trouble, then all districts are in trouble. I do not like the “county versus city” rhetoric that always seems to come up in these discussions. I am not singling you out here, It is time for that rhetoric to go away.
      Now with that said, there is no doubt that there are good schools in this County. But, I would respectfully disagree that there is a model to emulate when you compartmentalize the least fortunate within your entire County into one district.
c)   From a comment:  It appears that moving Dr. Morris from Coopertown to Springfield Middle was not very successful. Guess he sees now how a rue inner City school operates.
      I do not think it was meant this way, but this comment seems to disparage Dr. Morris. I want to be very careful here in that my effort is not a crusade against any teacher, administrator, school board member or anyone involved with Robertson County Schools – past or present.
      This problem is too big to lay at anyone’s feet, nor should it be blame-game. It happened. It is up to us, all of us to figure out what we are going to do about it.
d)   From comments and e-mail:  Shouldn’t the parents in these schools take more responsibility for their own children?
      But, at the same time, the community cannot sit back and point the fingers at parents. If parents are not going to take responsibility here, then it is imperative that we provide these children with an environment that shows them that there is another way.
      We fail ourselves if we sit back and watch this go by generation after generation.

e)   From a comment: How about focusing on improving the schools in Springfield?

      I think that the good folks of Robertson County Schools have done all that they can at this point. Most of our brightest and best administrators are within these schools. Great deals of resources are allocated to these schools in the way of federal monies. And, money, and more money will not solve this issue. It is time that we think outside of the normal answers to the same old questions. 

 f)   From a comment: What about community and parental involvement, additional programs, extended hours, etc.?

      How do you legislate good parenting? And, I do not mean to be flippant in my response, but it is impossible not to be when answering that question. That question continues to come up. As a public figure, I would exercise extreme caution in commenting on one’s parenting. So, I do not know why folks keep throwing this back up as a response to these low scores.

      Yet, at the same time, no children are any less important in trying to provide them the best school environment possible. These children should not be punished for lack of parenting. It is up to us as a community to surround these children with an example of what they can be. Is it not?   

g)   From a comment: Are you somehow suggesting that redistricting will solve the socio economic problems?

      Frankly, I did not know that I was advocating that we re-district. I think many folks have jumped to that conclusion already, but I have not advocated for any one solution to this problem.
h)   From a comment: I don't think this presents an accurate picture. To say the situation is "worsening" based only on this data ignores the fact that the entire country faced an economic recession between these years. Almost EVERYONE'S situation got worse. Let's see what 2011 numbers look like. Granted, the population of Springfield schools appears to be more disadvantaged, but that cannot be exclusively the fault of the school system, nor should it be solved exclusively therein.
      Let’s not get caught up in a game of semantics with this discussion. I your proving my point since we do see the same some disturbing information leap from these figures. Folks, again, please take a moment to read the entirety of what I am saying here before jumping to conclusions. Here, this alludes to my statements being made that the school system is at fault. I have repeatedly stated that the blame-game is counter-productive, and I will have nothing to do with it. This is our problem. “Our” being our County. And, the remaining comment of it “not being the school systems fault, nor should it be solved exclusively therein.” Exactly. This is why I applaud all involved for making this a community discussion.
i)    From a comment: Also, using Bransford as a barometer probably isn't a good idea. Isn't this a school whose FEDERAL programs specifically target children from disadvantaged backgrounds (HEADSTART)?
      If you will note in the statistics I have cited, Bransford has not been used as a barometer. The State is not able to score Bransford because there is insufficient data to do so.
      But, to the point addressing the programs…those programs being a benefit to Bransford. These programs, grants and/or what-have-you are there as remedial measures because the schools consistently score so low. This furthers the argument that I submit that so many resources are being put into these schools. I do not think that anyone would want to send their kids being in that environment when such remedial measures are needed.  


  1. My husband and I have been strong supporters of Spingfield schools since our move to Spingfield in 1991. We have always been and continue to be amazed at the "indifference" the majority of the parents have regarding their child's education, support of their teachers, and school. However, unfortunate, this is something that seems very difficult if not impossible to change. You CANNOT make parents get involved if they do not want to. I will still support our schools and wish more people would. GO JACKETS!!!!

  2. Dr. Morris has done an amazing job of changing the climate at SMS. The problems are just too big for him to solve by himslef.

  3. Jonathan, Thank you for the courage to try to bring such an emotionally charged topic up for discussion and keeping the discussion on a professional level. Conclusion jumping is an Olympic sport and we have a gold medal team right here in Robertson County.

    These are incredibly complex issues that cannot be solved by throwing sound bites around. May _we_ look for opportunities to learn how to learn what the problems are? We will learn very quickly who is committed...

  4. Linda Hart-AndersonApril 12, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    First, you must stop referring to the students and parents who live in the
    city of Springfield as these people or these or those students. If you don't know why then there's a huge part of the problem right there!! Second, it's a huge mistake to assume you are the best example for the students in question. What are you trying to say? I hope it isn't that being white or
    having more money is the example they need to follow! From looking at
    the published statistics race and money seem to be the overwhelming differences.

  5. I'm really confused by the Robertson county shcools by the number blog. Are we trying to fix the economically disadvantaged situation or the fact that the schools have so many children that are at an enconomical disadvantage? Either way a school system or program can not change the % of the population that either chooses not to work or can not find work. We may be showing our children that there is a better way, but this is only if they live in a family that chooses not to work. For those who can not find work that is an economic issue that we as a school system can not fix. Weather you leave these children in the schools that they are in or move them to the county schools they will still be economically disadvantaged and even more so when the child gets sick at school and their struggling parents can not afford to drive across the county to pick their children up. Like I said I'm confussed at what we are trying to accomplish here?

  6. Angela Beasley-MurrayApril 14, 2011 at 8:20 PM

    Economically disadvantage causes:

    1. Students moving sometimes three times a year and missing school to pack and unpack.
    2. Multiple divorces has children confused as to how to problem solve.
    3. Mental illness/illness/has Grandparent/parents
    raising children sometimes in their 60/70's.
    4. Parent/s are working night shifts/two jobs to make ends meet and cannot supervise children and be a part of the school.
    5. Single parents trying to do it alone.
    6. Students need individual attention, so they act up in school because there is no other way to get there personal needs meet.
    7. Parents do not know how to say no because of guilt.
    8. There is a jail housing a parent removing one from home throwing them into more poverty.
    9. Poverty leads to depression and anxiety, will I have food? Powerlessness that leads to...
    10. Students moving from other school systems into Springfield and they have not done well already.
    11. The list could go on and on, and yes many areas in this nation in trouble.
    12. The county needs social workers in schools to provide divorce recovery..mediation..social development.
    13. It is never the fault of just a school, teachers trying to cope with the pressures of testing...a Principal and staff trying to cope with the issues that come their way each day.
    14. Students need to be able to cherish their cultural heritage and be proud and yet there is scapegoating.
    15. Anyone can walk in and see the problems but they need to be a part of the solution instead of condemning.
    16. Economically depraved people are starved to be judged because they struggle.
    17. Do they believe college is in the picture for them? A purpose for their literacy?

  7. With all due respect, Mr. Commissioner, as a teacher in Springfield, it is very hard NOT to feel blamed in this discussion. When your government leaders stand up and publicly deride the results of your work, I feel called out. For the record, I am a Level 5 teacher, so I have data showing I'm doing my job at a high degree of effectiveness. And still my leaders deride my work. Regardless of anyone's intent, I feel attacked, and so do my colleagues.

  8. "Anonymous": Thanks for your feedback. Could you show me where anyone has "derided" anyone here or otherwise? It has been my personal intent not to get into the blame game. I want an honest discussion of the issues here.