President Obama is visiting Nashville this week following tonight's State of the Union Address. Media reports have focused on how some Tennessee Republicans are refusing to attend or using the visit as an opportunity to criticize the President. But when the President of the United States comes to town to celebrate the work of teachers and students, we should all stand in support.
Too often, we only hear the bad news about public schools -- where we're falling behind or the conflicts about charter schools being hashed out in social media. It's great for this community that the President's visit will focus attention on some good news. As someone who's been involved in Metro Schools' high school redesign work over the last seven years, there are literally hundreds of teachers, principals, parents, and community partners who share in this success and deserve both our congratulations and our help in the work ahead.
We should also use the President's visit as an opportunity to get refocused on education. While we're making faster gains in Tennessee than other states, there's still a long way to go. It's still the case that just 18% of Tennessee high school students are college-ready when they graduate. To build on and accelerate recent gains, we have to reject bad ideas like for-profit "virtual" schools and private school vouchers. Instead, let's stay focused on what works - improving principal leadership, the recruitment and retention of great teachers, and an individualized approach to student learning.
1 out of every 4 Tennessee children lives in poverty and almost 50% of our public school students qualify for free and reduced lunch. To make lasting gains, we must close the opportunity gaps caused by poverty by investing more in early childhood education and ensuring better coordination among the schools, agencies, and non-profits that work with our kids.
In February, I'm going to be visiting schools around the 21st district and talking with parents, teachers, and students. Please let us know if you will help organize one of these meetings. We also hope that you will share your ideas about improving our schools by replying to this email.