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Appalachia's north end

Separated by some 850 miles are two high schools, each in the foothills of a different region of the Appalachian Mountain range.

One school is a nominally-private academy in Manchester, Vt. It accepts, on tuition (in fact depends for survival on them) the 91 percent of its student body which has transferred in from local public grade schools in the surrounding, mostly intra-county, area.

The other school is a typical public high school in Erwin, Tenn. It receives its students from the surrounding intra-county area also. Nearby hill color differentiation (one called the Green Mountains the other called the Blue Ridge) and latitudinal separation notwithstanding (7 degrees, Burr & Burton Academy at about 43 degrees N and Unicoi County HS at about 36 degrees N) the two schools aren't much different in their student bodies-small-town teenage Americans-or their achievement levels or their racial make-up. Where they differ, markedly, is in their governance.

One, in the county named in the English language for 18th century New Hampshire land-grantor Benning Wentworth, has just raised its tuition charges 6 percent, more than twice the less-than-3 percent statewide school budget increase. No mention in the various news accounts of student achievement or the productivity trends at BBA. Related factoids: from the 2008 National Digest of Educational Statistics, you can read that average pupil-teacher ratio in Vermont is 1-to-10.8 and annual per-pupil cost $13.5K.

The other, in the county named in the Cherokee language for the nearby sometimes-called-smoky mountain-top haze, has just petitioned Tennessee state government for higher K-12 academic standards. No mention in the various news accounts of any (beyond the basic inflation rate) budget change. Related factoids: NDES Table 66 shows the TN p/t ratio at 1-to-15.7 and Table 182 shows the annual per-pupil cost at $7.7K.

Like Bennington County and all of Vermont, Unicoi County, Tenn., is, at 98 percent, statistically all white for NDES purposes, which shows in Table 121 that the U.S. fourth grade average reading score is 220 overall and 230 for whites (out of 500) with Vermont at 228 (229w) and Tennessee at 216 (224w)

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