Being the child of a military officer my children both experienced many schools and many levels of quality as far as their educations have been concerned.
In the last two years we have settled into an area that we will call home, at least until my youngest son graduates from High School. Along with the varied quality of education he has been exposed to he has also had to meet the challenge of dealing with a learning difference. Up until two years ago when we entered the Rutherford County School system, that difference had been a constant battle in our endeavor to make sure the child had the opportunity to get a decent education.
Most schools he attended wanted him in classes referred to as “resource” classes. In my opinion, taking my child and putting him in a class that was below his level of intellect because he had a problem that made it hard for him to focus on the written word was motivated by a lack of desire for the school personnel to meet the challenges of such a student. In an attempt to help him all they did was fail to challenge him and stimulate him, which is the only way to educate a student.
It’s been a refreshing change since he started attending school here in Rutherford County. He has spent two years at Blackman Middle School and will move onto Blackman High School next year.
Blackman schools challenge all it’s students to pursue courses beyond the average level. They don’t take away the challenge or stimulation but insist that the student be met with new challenges daily.
From what I understand, Standard English classes are not acceptable at Blackman High School. The philosophy there is that any child can do honors level work if they are pushed. As the mother of a highly intelligent child who spent years being pushed aside I like that attitude.
The goal of expecting higher academic standards from all students is part of a high school that is associated with such a work philosophy. The former Blackman High Principal, Gary Nixon, launched this new philosophy when the school first opened five years ago.
He has stated that, “of all the things I’ve done in education for 35 years, the experience at Blackman High is probably the most satisfying.” He left our school last fall to become the executive director of the Tennessee School Board. A well-deserved and earned post.
The National Educational Association met for a professional-development conference in Nashville the second week of July and recognized our Blackman High School as one of the top 18 schools in the country earning a “Gold Award” for achieving significant gains in achievement after implementing a “High Schools That Work” design. The Rutherford County School is the only one that attained the honor in Tennessee.
Students need a solid high school experience so they can make choices about their post-secondary education, whether it is a four-year university, two year-community college or a technical school. At Blackman High School students are getting such an experience.
The Blackman approach to challenging students ties into the federal No Child Left Behind Act, goals that call for schools to work toward a long-term goal of 100 percent proficiency by the year 2014.
Blackman offers nothing below Algebra I at the high school level and students no longer have to be embarrassed about carrying lower-level math books or meeting in a different classroom from their fellow students.
I always found it frustrating that the drop out level of some of the schools my children attended was so high. These schools didn’t seem to know how to accommodate students who did not perform at their full potential in a productive way. The educational philosophy found at Blackman High School seems to be the very thing needed to deter this high drop out rate.
Schools need to challenge and guide students through academic and extracurricular opportunities and that is what Blackman does with such programs as Advanced Placement course offerings, Business Academy and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp.
With the No Child Left Behind philosophy Blackman is moving in the right direction to stay ahead of the curve. Blackman is the only school in Rutherford County that had 100 percent value added gains or better, in all subjects and all grades. The thing that comforts me as a parent is that the schools philosophy seems to be about pushing every student forward, learning difference or no learning difference.