NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has announced the launch of a $2.4 million program that will provide college counselors to 30 public high schools across the state.
The aim of Advise TN is to realize the state’s goal to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree to 55 percent by 2025, the governor’s office said in a statement last Thursday.
“Research tells us that having a school-wide culture … of students knowing that college isn’t only an option for them but it’s an expectation — is one of the best indicators of whether students will pursue higher education,” Haslam said in the statement. “This program will provide schools across the state with one more adult in students’ lives, focused on helping them navigate the transition from high school to college.”
Counselors will be hired and trained in the summer and will work with about 10,000 juniors and seniors statewide. They will help students prepare for the ACT, work on college applications and take advantage of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid program offered by the U.S. Department of Education.
To be eligible, high schools must have average college-going rates that fall below the state average. Public high schools must apply to participate and will be selected by the Tennessee Higher Education Committee based on their commitment to creating a college-going culture.
Advise TN was included in Haslam’s 2016-17 budget with funding of $2.5 million. High schools selected to participate in Advise TN are expected to develop plans to continue the program after state funding has ended.
School counselors don’t like the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, reports the Tennessean.
Counselors wonder if the bill, for example, would ban:
Posting suicide prevention posters that reference sexual orientation.
Gay teachers from displaying or discussing photos of their partners.
Discussions of sexuality with parents who ask about their children.
Thoughtful exploration of episodes in which students are targeted with homosexual epithets.
There’s also a Tennessean editorial against the bill in Monday’s paper.
…The bill also could affect training that dozens of Metro school staffers have taken part in since the start of the school year. Just Monday, about 100 staffers sat through training about sexual orientation and gender identity.
The session, part of a new training program the district put in place for counselors and social workers, was hosted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Adults were asked questions about their own knowledge and feelings about sexual orientation and were given recommendations for how to answer student questions. They also were given stickers and posters declaring “safe spaces” in schools.
Much of what they’ve learned could go by the wayside if the legislation passes, said Bagwell and GLSEN spokesman Brad Palmertree.
“I think we would be limited in our resources,” Bagwell said. “We would have to think differently about how we support those students.”
GLSEN provided a copy of its 48-page “Safe Space Kit,” which recommends that school staffers “ask questions that demonstrate understanding, acceptance and compassion” when a student discloses sexual orientation to them.