mage of state of Tennessee

Todd M Franklin

Candidate for Tennessee

House of Representatives

7th District


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Solutions

Educatonal Issues

Domain Issue Obstacles Solutions Other Possible Actions Priority
Higher Education College acceptance of students who do not meet minimal college readiness baselines. Many students with high school deficiencies are allowed to enroll as unconditionally accepted students, where their chances of success are minimal.   Regular enrollment of students who should only be taking developmental courses should not be allowed.  This is unethical treatment to the students who do not have the necessary skills and lowers classroom expectations for students who do not have these deficiencies. Enrollment numbers are emphasized over the quality of education because the state has reduced its share of the cost of education (70% of current funding comes from student tuition), and colleges and universities must look to higher enrollment numbers to meet their budgets.   Political pressure to increase enrollment numbers so we can appear to be educating more Tennesseans.   Pure unabashed pride over enrollment numbers.   Strict adherence to admission policies.   Create programs for developmental students to be accepted only as developmental students and not as "unconditional acceptance" where they can take other college courses without completing their high school deficiencies.   Restore at least some of the recently lost state funding to higher education.   Eliminate costs by eliminating redundant programs in our state institutions. Consider merging University of Tennessee system and TBR to eliminate waste and duplication of services.   Require transparency from colleges and universities so that they must produce annual reports on admission standards (stated and actual enforced standards) that include such numbers as number/percentage of students with deficiencies and success rates of students with deficiencies. Highest
Higher Education Students with high school deficiencies as mentioned above (admitted as regular students) along with the lack of effective programs to help students overcome these deficiencies.   Many often do not complete their developmental requirements after multiple semesters and yet remain enrolled as "unconditionally accepted" to the school.   Many do not survive more than a few semesters and then leave school having seriously damaged their GPA and their future chances of a degree.   They may also leave school with student loan debt and no education to show for it.   It is blatantly unethical on the part of the state to bring students into the system without giving them the tools they need to be successful.   The Complete College Tennessee Act destroyed the previous system of developmental studies and students are (unrealistically) expected to complete several years of deficiencies in a single semester.   Complete College Tennessee Act which encouraged/allowed the TBR to eliminate the previous developmental studies system and rename it "Learning Support."   More of the same false emphasis on enrollment numbers instead of the quality of education.   State rules, for the Hope scholarship, that only allow students who enroll in college soon after high school to recieve the HOPE scholarship, encouraging student who may not be ready for college to enroll instead of waiting until they are ready for higher education. REPEAL The Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010."
Completely revise the Learning Support/Developmental/Remedial system by which students are expected to raise their abilities up to college-entry skills.   Use lottery scholarship funds to allow deficient students to take only developmental courses until they have brought their skills up to the needed levels. Limit the number of developmental courses to half-time enrollment so students can concentrate on the essential deficiencies.   Limit tax-payer funded attempts to complete developmental courses to make sure that students understand the importance of taking full advantage of the financial assistance and not wasting their chance to improve their knowledge.  
Create a summer bridge program for recent high school graduates with deficiencies so that they have a chance to enter college as regular full time students in the fall.   Work on thepublic education system to prevent passing students with deficiencies - to avoid this problem in the coming years. Highest - Blame for this situation can be shared with parents and the students themselves. But we need to get our state up to minimal standards, to recruit more businesses and offer a promising future for all of our citizens.
K-12 Students being passed for courses/grades and even graduation w/out earning the grades and learning the necessary skills.   This is a huge contributing factor to the previous issues of students entering college without meeting college readiness baselines. Pressure from parents, possible other presures from administrators or politicians. Recently the state was bragging that our high school graduation rate would soon hit 90%, whichwould be the highest of any state in the country.   High graduation rates are meaningless when many students are graduating without basic reading, writing and math skills. Make no-fail policies illegal with fines for any administrator/supervisor who causes/pressures a public school teacher to pass a student who hasn't earned the right to pass. Special Education would fall under different criteria. TCAP, End of Course testing administered and proctured by educators from outside the system or school. Funding penalties for schools who award diplomas to students who have not earned the minimum number of state-required credits. High
K-12 Low level of funding for essential services in public schools. PART 1
From 2000 to 2012, statewide Administrative Expenditures grew while Instruction Expenditures fell (http://www.beacontn.org/wp-content/uploads/Following-the-Money.pdf).  
Blame the teacher syndrome and an actual shortage of state revenue compared to expenditures.   Poor financial planning and giving higher priority for activities other than education. State funds for local schools systems should be allocated and limited for use in specific areas.   Legislation would likely be needed to keep school systems form increasing their administrative spending at the cost of instructional spending.   Telling local school systems how to spend their money is not the preferred approach, but is certainly justified with funds that are provided by the state. Local elections should impact the way local school systems allocate funding.   If voters took matters into their own hands with their local school boards, state action would not be necessary. High
K-12 Low level of funding for essential services in public schools. PART 2
The State of Tennessee is consistently in the bottom ten states in funding and performance in public schools.   The funding of education should be the highest priority in the state.   While throwing money at the problem is not a solution, when parents and teachers have to buy classroom materials out of their own pockets, I want to know what is more important in our state budget - the funding of maintenance for a private school in Nashville? Spending over $30 million to invest in film productions in the last six years with a return of about 30 cents on the dollar?   What else is more important?
Beauracrats and special interest groups.   Poor financial planning and giving higher priority for activities other than education. Citizens need to refuse to take no for an answer. There are enough wasteful dollars spent in our state that some of these can be redirect towards education and spent wisely.   In the Issues page of this web site I have mentioned several obvious wastes that our state government has allowed, and there is much more than this that occurs on a daily basis. See The Tennessee Pork Report.   Eliminate wasteful spending and properly prioritize our budget.   Citizens need to hold our elected representatives accountable for both their actions and inaction. Pass laws that give citizens more control over thier government by allowing voter initiatives to be placed on the ballots like many other states do.   Consider allowing recall elections for officials who do not follow the will of the people. High
K-12 Common Core Standards, other standards, and setting standards higher than many students can meet, higher than what colleges actually require, and also, in some instances, higher than what is actually needed.   I am very much in favor of high standards that are necessary as long as they are enforced.   However, the state of Tennessee has set some standards at an arbitrary level based on one study or another, that have no relationship to what actually is needed in our state.  
This is a complex issue and has further discussion following this section.
Lack of knowledge by many politicians, educators, and the general public about what skills are actually needed, that many schools are not enforcing standards and some students graduate without meeting the minimal standards.   Also, state colleges and universities are not requiring these skills for the admission process. Since TBR colleges don't actually expect or require incoming students to have the equivalent of 4 years of high school math, and since some of our high schools are graduating many students without even the equivalent of 2 years of math - why are do we require 4 years of high school math?   Return our high school requirements to a minimum of two years of algebra, one year of Algebra and one year of Geometry, or some other combination with only two or three years required at a maximum. Four years of high school math should not be required until high schools only graduate students with coressponding math skills and it is shown that this is what is needed for entrance into college programs. Until then, stop forcing low to mid skill math performers into four years of math that will not enhance their college careers. Classrooms with lower performers and high performers have to teach to the middle, so excellent math students may be harmed by this requirment, when standards and expectations are lowered for other students. High

Further Explanation of Tennessee high school math requirements and the actual reality of what occurs:

Tennessee has recently (within the last two years) required graduating high school students to complete 4 years of math, not including any developmental math. This means Algebra I and beyond - Algrebra II, Geometry, Precalculus, Calculus I, and/or Probabilities and Stastitics.
This would be great IF we were successfully teaching 4 quality years of math, IF the standards did not have an adverse effect on students who are capable of completing 4 years of math, and IF 4 years of math in high school was actually needed.
As a holder of an MS in Computer Science and an advisor for computer and information science students, I will be the first person to say that high math skills are extremely important for many fields of study.   However, I am aware of NO program in any of Tennessee's state colleges or universities that requires freshmen to have completed four years of math before being admitted.   If someone knows of such a program, please educate me and let me know.

      However:
  1. According to the State of Tennessee, in 2013 only 24% of high school graduates met ACT benchmarks in math (https://news.tn.gov/node/11216).   The ACT benchmark for math is two years of Algebra. So if only 27% of our high school graduates have skills equivelant to two years of math, why are we requiring 4 years and how are these other 73% of students graduating from high school?
  2. TBR, in changing from the "Developmental Studies System" to "Learning Support" now accepts students, who demonstrate the equivalency of elementary Algebra (Algebra I), as having satisfied their college readiness math baseline. This is the case, in spite of the fact that most college entry level math, science, and technology courses expect students to have the equivalent of Algebra II.
  3. This change by TBR, leaves some students in math limbo, where according to the college or university, they have satisfied their math prerequisites, but according to course requirements, they have not.   We have actually lowered the acceptable level of math skills in colleges and universities, while the state has raised the number of required courses in high school. Currently, elementary algebra, which is the equivalent of Algebra I satisfies all of the needed math deficiencies, when only a few years ago, students also were required to have skills at the Algebra II level.   Most college professors are not aware of this and are surprised when they find out that the expected prerequisites of two years of high school algebra have not been met and that their students shouldn't even be in the particular class.
  4. This is extremely unfair to students because it leaves them lacking in the needed skills, but provides no remedy even when they desperately want to improve their skill level. I know of some students who have left school when they are surprised by the revelation that they do not actually have all the needed math skills for a particular discipline, even though a college or university has told them that they completed their requirements.
  5. Back at the high school level, there are students sitting through advanced math classes who haven't mastered the lower levels. These students will no doubt bring the class expectations down to a lower level, which will limit the progress of students who can do more advance work.
  6. Enough with the charades!   Stop requiring skill levels that are not being enforced in high schools and are being ignored as entry-level skills at colleges!   Any elected or appointed official who continues to press for higher standards while ignoring the fact that we are not meeting minimal standards should not be allowed to influence education policy.   Stricter standards should not be required, on paper, until we begin to enforce the lower standards of several years ago.
  7. We need more transparency in government, with graduation rates, ACT scores, end of course/TCAP scores all being compared for the whole state, each school, and each school system so that citizens, parents, and educators understand what the reality is in our public schools, colleges and universities. We need to hold those responsible, who manipulate the system and misrepresent the data to mislead students and taxpayers.

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