published Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Hamilton County: Parents want better middle schools

Audio clip

Brown Academy parents

Parents at Brown and Battle academies say they don’t want their kids shuffled into Orchard Knob, East Lake and Howard middle schools once they graduate because the middle schools aren’t good enough.

The curriculums at the middle schools aren’t up to par, the parents say, and they want the school system to provide another middle school for the children to attend.

The academies and the current middle schools are “not on the same level,” said Dr. Valerie L. Radu, the parent of two Brown Academy students who will start middle school in the fall.

“Every choice that’s been given is a step down,” said Keesha McClain, a mother of two Brown Academy students. “It’s setting the students up for failure.”

Dr. Radu and Ms. McClain are among the parents expected to gather at Bessie Smith Hall at 5 p.m. today to discuss concerns about having an alternative feeder school for the students at Brown and Battle academies.

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Other parents attending the meeting are concerned about the possibility of school closings in District 4, including Howard Middle, said Hamilton County Commissioner Dr. Warren Mackey, who coordinated the meeting.

“We’re going to ask questions and get specific answers,” Dr. Mackey said.

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Scales says he plans to attend the meeting. But he said he doesn’t believe the parents’ concerns about Howard, Orchard Knob and East Lake are valid.

“We need to work to make sure all our schools are good options,” he said. “We will work with the parents so their kids are exposed to administrators who meet their needs.”

But he said parents and school officials “must make sure all of our schools are safe and secure. That’s an issue we all have, and we have to work on it.”

Students attending Brown and Battle have been on an International Baccalaureate curriculum that trains elementary school students to be critical, international thinkers and starts preparing them for college, parents said. They are pleased with the education their children are receiving at the academies, and say sending them to one of the three inner-city middle schools would set them back.

Mrs. McClain said she’s considering home schooling her children if no other alternative is provided.

Howard School Executive Principal Dr. Paul Smith asked that parents consider improvements that his school has made.

“According to our data, we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “To alleviate some of the negative perceptions, I’d ask the parents to get with their school board member, come visit the school and see for themselves.”

Dr. Smith said the school’s graduation rate has improved from 38 percent in years past to 54 percent for 2007-2008. The rate is projected to be at 60 percent for this upcoming year, he said.

“It’s our goal to make sure Howard is a place where all kids can come and receive a quality education,” he said.

Blake Freeman, assistant principal at Orchard Knob Middle, said he didn’t feel comfortable commenting on the parents’ concerns.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, if a child is enrolled in a failing school, parents can request that the child be moved to another school, Dr. Radu noted.

However, all the parents said their hope is that school officials will talk honestly about providing options for their children.

“We’re not going away,” said Dr. Radu. “We want them to put away the PowerPoint presentations, stop hiding behind the budget and pieces of paper and talk to us about children.”

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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aae1049 said...

Notice to Hamilton County Commissioners;

Please feel free to close our neighborhood schools and send teachers home after the waste in Hamilton County general government has been fully addressed. There is more waste in general government than public education. In light of the impact, close under utilized county buildings, reduce your owwn leglislative staff of three, close parks, discreationary spending everything. Send that money to education.

Chldren are last on the budget hit list, not first, Gentlemen...

March 5, 2009 at 5:57 a.m.
uwradu said...

Dr. Scales states that we "must make sure all of our schools are safe and secure. That’s an issue we all have, and we have to work on it.” So he basically admits that we have an "issue," yet at the same time he dismisses the parents' complaints as invalid. If that's not cynicism, I don't know what is.

Never mind school safety, which is easily verifiable through public records. How about the educational track record? Here you can look up the TCAP scores of the various Hamilton County schools:

http://edu.reportcard.state.tn.us/pls/apex/f?p=222:1:5431523471100068::NO:::

Select a school from the drop-down box and click the Achievement tab below to see the 2008 scores. Mr. Scales, pick--oh, let's say Orchard Knob Middle--and tell me with a straight face that scores of DFFF for 2006, 2007 and 2008 with no upward trend at all make this school a "good option." Of course, during the presentation last week he chose to focus almost entirely on Lakeside Academy, which does have better scores, ignoring any questions about Orchard Knob.

Having noble intentions for all schools of the system is very laudable indeed, but I prefer for my kids not to be early pioneers in (t)his social and educational experiment which has a very real potential for failure. Call us once these feeder schools HAVE REACHED the level they are striving for. Until then, please give us some real options without dismissing us like some pesky children.

Uwe W. Radu

March 5, 2009 at 1:13 p.m.
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