Tennessee's implementation of federal standards for students next year should help Hamilton County have competitive applicants for jobs with Volkswagen and other companies, officials said Thursday night.
"You'll have engineering-potential students in four or five years," said Dr. Connie Smith, assistant commissioner for accountability, teaching and learning with the Tennessee Department of Education.
Dr. Smith spoke to county commissioners and school board members at a joint meeting at the Hamilton County Department of Education. She said the new standards are meant to help students in middle school improve reading and math skills so they can do better in high school.
In August, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey gave county commissioners and school board members 100 days to develop an education plan to prepare Hamilton County students for jobs at Volkswagen and other local industries. Officials have developed a draft plan in response. Among the points discussed in the draft are new statewide school standards, improving ACT scores and professional development for teachers.
Those skills, along with the ability to work as a team, are what businesses are looking for in employees, Dr. Smith argued.
County Mayor Claude Ramsey stressed that improving reading and math skills is imperative in helping Hamilton County students land jobs.
"Those things are common sense," he said.
School board member Rhonda Thurman asked whether raising the standards would do any good if teachers are not held accountable and if students continue to be promoted without meeting benchmarks.
"I don't look at this as a money problem," she said. "I look at this as an adult problem."
Dr. Smith said holding teachers accountable would be a job for principals.
Under the new standards, which will align with the National Assessment of Educational Progress, students will take algebra in middle school instead of high school. Also, Dr. Smith said students will see more of a focus on basic reading in middle school.
Tennessee will see a couple of bumpy years after the standards are implemented, she warned, but she argued students will ultimately benefit from them.
Mr. Ramsey also said it's important for Hamilton County parents to get involved and make sure students get to school and behave when they're there.
"I'd like to see this community step up and do something about that," he said.
Commissioner Fred Skillern emphasized discipline as something necessary to a good employee.
"If they don't get to school on time, they normally don't get to work on time," he said.