Both local school districts were awarded Exemplary status after posting TNReady scores above the state average alongside a strong graduation rate and high attendance.
“I feel like our district did really well compared to last year,” Michael Garren, Loudon County interim director of schools, said. “Of course, the Exemplary status of our district shows that we not only have great achievement, but we also had great growth, so I’m really proud of what our teachers and what our kids did last year.”
Garren highlighted math and English/Language Arts as strong suits for Loudon County.
The district’s math scores jumped above the state average. In Algebra I at Greenback and Loudon high schools, the scores were 12 points above the state average at 39.5%, while the state average was 27.4%. Results from sixth-grade math also shot above the state average.
“Over the last year, depending on the subject, like sixth-grade math, we improved 17 points over last year, which is a big number, and we ended up being 24 points above the state average in sixth-grade math,” Garren said. “So sixth-grade math was a huge area for us last year as far as growth from the year before and exceeding the state average this year.”
English/Language Arts hovered five points above the state’s average score in grades 3-8.
Garren pointed to collaboration among teachers and instructional coaches as a pathway to success.
“I think our district is focused more on English/Language Arts and math and we’re trying to provide teachers with more support in those two core areas,” he said. “We’ve got an instructional coach in math that works in the district level with all the schools with the teachers, and we’ve got an instructional coach in English/Language Arts that works with all the teachers in the schools. Those subject areas, the teachers are planning together, planning their instruction together. Specifically in the middle school arena and moving into the high school, they’re doing a lot of planning together, so I think that collaboration among the teachers has strengthened the instruction that the students are receiving as well, and we try to support that with the instructional coaches from the district office to provide additional support.”
Math assessments also proved strong for Lenoir City Schools.
Kindergarten through third-grade math scores grew by 21.1%, and grades 4-8 grew by 9.2%. Geometry, Algebra I, Algebra II and eighth-grade math all shot above the state average. The percentage of students who were on-track and/or mastered geometry was 43.8% compared to the state’s average of 33.9%. Eighth-grade math also showed major improvement as students who were on-track during testing tallied up to 48.1%, while the state average was 35.1%.
English/Language Arts scores lingered above state averages. Eighth-grade English scores were 31.6%, while the state average held at 27.1%. English I scores were 35.5% in comparison to the state’s average of 32.7%, and English II calculated out to 45.1% — a little more than two points above the state average.
“We have been working very hard to boost our reading proficiency in K-3 grades,” Jeanne Barker, Lenoir City director of schools, said. “We are very proud to have 15% more students reading proficiently this year than in the past. Literacy continues to be an area of great growth across K-8 and will continue be an area of focus for this year.”
Though Garren is proud of the results, he plans to continue implementing strategies that have helped students succeed.
“We’re going to continue working as hard as we’ve worked over the past few years,” he said. “The Exemplary status for three years in a row, which is based on achievement and growth, shows that we have continued to grow each year, and we hope to continue to grow. This year, we’ll continue to provide our instructional support through our coaches. We’ll continue our collaboration within our grade levels and subject areas for the teachers. We have over the last couple of years instituted some formative assessments and common assessments across the schools, specifically in English and math, where we can gauge and see where our students are at the end of the first nine weeks, at the end of the semester, and be able to adjust our instruction to make sure that we’re getting the areas that they need to be successful by the end of the year.”
Though the assessments pose as a checklist for what students have successfully accomplished and learned, Garren noted TNReady is not the only way to evaluate students and teachers.
“It’s affirmation for teachers and kids that they have met the expectations of the state at the end of the year, and we’ve shown that we’ve exceeded those expectations for the last few years,” he said. “I think it’s reaffirming for teachers to know, ‘Hey, what we’re doing is really making a difference in the kids.’ Of course, assessments are what they are. They’re assessments. They’re a snapshot in time at the end of the year. It’s not comprehensive of everything that the teachers have taught all year long, and the teachers do a lot of things other than teach ELA and math. They help shape our kids for the future, and a lot of that stuff can’t be measured. But I think it’s a good snapshot to reaffirm teachers that they are addressing the standards the state wants us to address to the level that the kids need to achieve those.”