Last week, Tennessee’s gubernatorial candidates discussed their education priorities at the Tennessee Business Roundtable hosted in Nashville.
Six of the seven major candidates took the stage to share their ideas on K-12 education, all echoing similar stances of small ideas to build bridges between schools and the business community — except former economic development commissioner Randy Boyd.
Boyd posed the idea of “community school” as a means to help underachieving students.
“They get an extra hour of reading and extra hour of math and extra hour of phys ed.” the Knoxville Republican said. “And a hot dinner their parents can join them in.”
Here’s a message to all the teachers and researchers who have spent decades working on intervention and improving outcomes: stop what you’re doing because Randy Boyd has the answer for you. An extra hour.
A child can’t read? Just give them an extra hour to stare at the page. Fourth graders can’t understand addition? Give them an extra hour to think about it.
Although the idea of more time on a subject may sound like a good idea to someone who doesn’t understand K-12 education like Randy Boyd, for underachievers simply spending more time on a subject often just means spending more time not understanding the material.
Underachievement among students is complex with many possible causes. There is no catch-all fix for underachievers, but some of the most successful methods include group collaboration and one-on-one instruction, not just more time on a subject.
As a a former higher education advisor to Governor Haslam, Boyd is undoubtably familiar with his favorite statistic: “Tennessee has been the fastest improving state since 2011,” which makes his lack of knowledge make sense.
Although Tennessee’s has spent years as the “fastest improving state, “U.S. News and World Report placed Tennessee at 32nd in the nation in terms of K-12 and higher education.
According to the Nation’s Report Card (the same source used by the DOE), only 23 percent of fourth graders have proficiency in writing. Additionally, only 17 percent of 12th graders in Tennessee are at or above proficiency in math.
What’s Boyd’s solution? All these kids need to do is have a hot meal with their parents.
Boyd claims he “has worked tirelessly to increase opportunities for students to gain the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century economy.” What he doesn’t have an answer for is if the skills of the 21st century he lives in include knowing how to write and understanding basic math.
But maybe Boyd just needs an extra hour think up some new improvements to Tennessee education.