published Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Tennessee: State top gainer in graduates

University report finds 12 states improved

Audio clip

Rachel Woods

Tennessee’s high school graduation rate improved more than any other state’s in a new report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

While the national high school graduation rate remained flat at about 75 percent between 2002 and 2006, the Volunteer State is one of a dozen states that made substantial gains, according to the report, released Thursday by the university’s Everyone Graduates Center.

“It’s really a tribute to the hard work of teachers in each school in Tennessee,” said Rachel Woods, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education. “Those are the ones really making the difference.”

Ms. Woods said the study used federal graduation statistics, and the rate the state calculates was even higher than the one reflected in the study.

The Tennessee rate rose from 61 percent to 72 percent, according to the study. New York showed the second biggest increase, climbing from 64 percent to 67 percent.

Red Bank High School Principal Gail Chuy agreed with Ms. Woods, praising teachers.

“Our teachers work very, very hard to make sure students keep up with the material,” she said. “We just give every opportunity in the world for the child to succeed, and I think that’s probably true across the state.”

Ms. Chuy said the rate increase shows a value in the state’s curriculum.

“I think it says a lot for not just keeping kids in school but making school mean something and making it relevant,” she said.

Tennessee and New York produced the greatest number of additional graduates, with roughly 8,000 more students in each state earning high school diplomas in 2006, said the center, which tries to develop strategies to help students graduate.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, had put a lot more funding toward students considered at risk and students for whom English is a second language, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.

“I think there are a number of policies Gov. Bredesen put into place that are paying off and show in this report,” Ms. Woods said.

Graduation rates increased by 6.8 percentage in Delaware (to 76 percent) and Kentucky (to 78 percent), according to the study. Rounding out the list of states with substantial gains were South Dakota, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Hawaii, Missouri, Nebraska and New Hampshire.

The report comes just days after President Barack Obama’s first major speech on education, in which he discussed reducing the high school dropout rate and pushing states to adopt more rigorous academic standards.

“One can look at the national data and get kind of depressed and think we’re not improving, but we need to look at the fact that there are 12 states that did make significant improvements,” said Robert Balfanz, co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center. “But we’re still clearly not putting enough resources and know-how behind this critical national problem.”

Staff Writer Andy Johns and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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gili4 said...

I think this statistic is suspect and is not a valid tool of measurement because it is so nebulas and subjective. What we all need to do is figure out how to get the government out of our public schools and get rid of the NEA instead of praising teachers who indoctrinate our children with socialism and mind control mantras.

March 12, 2009 at 10:56 a.m.
dendod said...

That's great. Maybe now when they say "You want fris wid dat?" It will be more like "Would you like some of our wonderful french fries with your order Sir?" This is really wonderful. I am so excited. The way Hamilton County Education Department and Department of Children's Services take problem children away from their parents and ship them to other counties must have paid off. I don't trust Dr. Scales nor Tommy "Smoke and Mirrors" Kranz any further than I can throw them. They are all about attendance. They couldn't teach a dog to fetch a stick.

March 12, 2009 at 10:57 a.m.
diamondr54 said...

Why do we always critize the teachers and blame them. Their not the one's that allow the children out all night roaming the streets. The teachers are not the one that is responsible for houses having bars on the windows and people living in fear. Teachers are not the one that allows students to spray paint building with gang signs. When are we(as a Society) going to hold parents responsible for their children? It takes a whole community to raise a child, but alot of parents do not take time to be parents. A child needs parents that show guidance, they can find best friends and running buddies. Children need to respect adults. Just because you may have attended pupil school, that does not make you an expert on education. Next time you have a day at work off ,go work in a class as a teacher.

March 12, 2009 at 9:36 p.m.
Christian65 said...

re: "get the government out of our public schools" - seriously? Think about that for a second. "Public" means taxpayer funded and government run, and with a board of education accountable to the voters in the community as a whole.

If you don't like that concept, maybe you should consider sending your kids to private school. The idea of "private" means that it is not government run, not accountable not to the general public -- often accountable instead to a church organization.

September 8, 2009 at 12:52 p.m.
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