» By Lauren Cottle
President Barack Obama visited McGavock High School in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Jan. 30, to speak about education and jobs.
Two days prior to Obama’s visit, a 15-year-old McGavock student, Kevin Barbee, was killed when another student shot him.
Obama mentioned this when addressing the school, calling the event “heartbreaking.”
The main topic of Obama’s speech, however, was education. He praised Tennessee, and Nashville in particular, for their efforts to improve schools. Obama’s speech stressed the importance of preparing students for jobs after graduation.
Tennessee was the first state to win Race to the Top in 2010, a contest created to encourage reform and changes in schools around the country. Schools that did the best according to the criteria were funded anywhere from $17 to $500 million.
Criteria for funding included achieving common standards, promoting teacher and principal-preparation programs, turning low achieving schools around and implementing data systems to track student progress.
Both supporters and protesters were standing outside of the school in preparation for Obama’s visit. The event was invitation-only and not open to the public.
The Nashville visit is part of a four-state tour following the State of the Union address, which Obama delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Issues brought up in the address include women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare and income inequality.
National tours following State of the Union addresses are common for presidents, according to APSU political science professor Michael Gruszczynski.
Visits such as these are intended by politicians to “bolster statements already made in their speech,” Gruszczynski said. Appearances and media coverage, according to Gruszczynski, are important politically for presidents to keep up after the State of the Union.
“Most Americans don’t watch the State of the Union,” Gruszczynski said. The importance of the speech, according to Gruszczynski, is not to change opinions; it’s to set the agenda of Congress.
Gruszczynski also mentioned that it is difficult for presidents to increase approval rating with the State of the Union address, because most people have their minds already made up.
“All presidents want to persuade people,” Gruzczynski said. “But people are not generally persuadable, especially not midway through a president’s second term.”
McGavock has been making improvements, according to Obama, in student learning with the academies program, aiming to provide students with “real life skills” which will help in various jobs. The school has also increased its graduation rate by 22 percent in the past 5 years.
“You have made huge strides in helping young people learn the skills they need for a new economy,” Obama said, according to NBC.
McGavock offers students choices in academies such as health care, communication and business. More specific pathways are found inside the academies, including fine arts, criminal justice and culinary arts.
The academies model is widespread in Metro Nashville public schools and has been in place for five academic years. TAS