U. S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today joined Memphis officials in praising the success of East High School, saying that their achievement proves that schools on the frontlines often know best how to educate their students.
"East High encourages students to help each other succeed," said Alexander at a school assembly of more than 1,000 students and community members. "The mentoring program at this school is a shining example of what happens when we give schools the flexibility to innovate.”
Alexander spoke at the school during the ceremony naming the East High School Auditorium in honor of Charles McVean, who graduated as an honor student from the school in 1961 before getting a degree from Vanderbilt University. McVean is the founder of the Greater East High Foundation, which operates a number of programs for the school including the East High Enrichment Academy
Alexander highlighted the good work of the East High Enrichment Academy, which provides both after school and Saturday remedial and enrichment programs for 7th and 8th grade students.
Currently, 35 East High honor students act as tutors and mentors to the younger students. A January study of this program found that 33 percent of seventh and eighth grade students consistently and voluntarily attended after school and Saturday classes last year.
“Charles McVean appreciates the value of a good education, and understands the importance of giving back to the community,” Alexander said. “Asking high school students to serve as tutors and mentors to 7th and 8th grade students is a great idea, one that more schools should replicate. It is good to see peer pressure used for something positive like a solid education.”
The study of the program also found that:
* No tutored 7th grade student failed the standardized Tennessee Comprehensive Aptitude Program "TCAP" exam (compared to a 30 percent failure rate for students that did not attend tutoring).
* Only one 8th grade student in the tutoring program failed the 8th grade TCAP exam (compared to a 28 percent failure rate of the 8th grade students who did not attend the tutoring).
Alexander said as Congress looks to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, it should let the states find the best way to improve and measure school success.
“Back in Washington, I think we need to make sure we give schools and states the flexibility they need to use models like this program and the work of Charles McVean to improve the rest of our nation’s schools,” said Alexander, a former , a former U.S. Secretary of Education.