For those who missed it, education "reformer" (and, evidently, newly minted resident of Tennessee) Michelle Rhee has been busy lavishing praise on the GOP-led Tennessee state legislature.
To hear Rhee tell it, the Republicans who run Tennessee have bolstered the cause of Volunteer State education, in large part by slashing the rights of the state's teachers. She described their teacher-bashing bill as "aggressive and courageous" (when she wasn't humiliating her own children to make a cheap political point).
Amazingly, Tennessee does have some educational issues. And the deprofessionalization of educators has done little to change it.
There is the small matter of racial disparities in the state's advanced courses, as The Tennessean reported this week:
In Rutherford County, Blackman High School’s physics classes were missing something.
In Wilson County, not one black high-school student took an advanced-level math, science or foreign-language class during the 2009-10 school year.
Things were slightly better in Williamson County, where 12 percent of black high-school students took Advanced Placement classes compared with 27 percent of white students.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights tracked minority student trends at more than 72,000 schools in 2009-10, including those in Middle Tennessee. Its report shows many of the region’s minorities are in classrooms led by inexperienced teachers, and relatively few of those students seek out high-level courses.
Meanwhile, Tennessee ranks 47th out of 50 states (and is behind Washington D.C.) in terms of its average composite ACT score. While that ranking is lowered a bit by the fact that the ACT is the test of choice there, whereas in other states only the most elite students take both exams, the state ranked 24th out of 27 states where the majority of state students take the exam.
Teachers aren't exactly lavishly treated in the state, either. Tennessee ranked in the bottom ten in terms of quality of teacher pay, according to a March study conducted by the business section at HuffPo.
So, the teachers are underpaid, and the students are hurting.
But, don't worry, folks. Teachers unions have been neutered. So it's all good now.