The Greene County Board of Education devoted some eight hours Friday to discussing in detail how well the county school system met its 2011-2012 goals and setting new goals for 2012-2013.
The board met Friday for a day-long retreat at the school system's Central Office.
Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk explained that she and the Central Office staff are continuing to organize the school system's goals under the same three broad categories used in the 2011-2012 school year: Student Success, Staff Success and Stewardship.
The goals under the heading of Student Success included the following subcategories:
* Literacy (the skills of reading and writing), including increasing third-grade reading proficiency;
* Numeracy (skills related to the use of numbers), including increasing the math proficiency of those in the middle grades;
* Graduate Success, including increasing high school graduation rates, increasing the school system's average ACT score, increasing end-of-course test scores in English II and Algebra I, increasing the number of dual credits earned by students, and increasing the number of certifications earned by students;
* "Gap Closure" -- reducing the achievement gap between students with disabilities and students who do not have disabilities; and,
* Wellness, through increasing cardio fitness.
Improving literacy, Dr. Kirk said, will mean increasing student scores on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Plan (TCAP) tests, improving classroom libraries, and changing teaching methods for reading and writing, according to the competencies listed in the documents she provided.
"All of these competencies are focused with a purpose toward helping students become better readers and better writers," Kirk told the board.
"The writing is something we're beginning to work on. It is going to be much, much more challenging through Common Core," she added, referencing the state's new, more challenging curriculum standards, which are now in effect.
PILOT STUDY FOR TEACHERS
Kirk also explained that there are several schools in the school system that are conducting pilot studies on a new professional development (PD) program.
She explained that, in this new program, teachers choose which things they need to implement in their classroom and seek out ways to get the training they need from a variety of possibilities.
"It's a way of having teachers want to learn what they need rather than having a one-size-fits-all PD program that some of them need and some of them don't," Kirk explained.
"This is personalized learning for our teachers. It's very progressive and I think a very effective way to provide professional development."
During the presentation of the 2011-2012 Annual Report, Kirk noted that the 3rd-grade reading/language arts TCAP score came in above the 40 percent that the system had projected, with 45.9 percent of students scoring "Proficient" or "Advanced."
"I'm very pleased by that number, but you don't want to get carried away," Kirk noted. "There's not a trend yet. We do think we're headed toward 60 to 70 percent proficiency before we're finished."
For the 2012-2013 school year, the system is setting a goal of having at least 49.3 percent of 3rd-grade students scoring Proficient or Advanced and 48.5 percent of 3rd through 8th-grade students scoring at that level.
By 2014-2015, the system hopes to increase these percentages to 56.1 percent of 3rd-grade students and 55.3 percent of students in 3rd through 8th grades.
There are fewer competencies listed in the 2012-2013 goals concerning the system's numeracy goal, but Kirk emphasized the significance of each one of the competencies that is listed.
All of the competencies apply for kindergarten through 12th grade. They call for applying learning to "real-world situations," engaging in discussions linking practices to content, and working on a task over an extended time frame.
This approach features a lot of group work, but calls on students to first do their own work before discussing, explaining, and critiquing with other students.
The school system's Annual Report for 2011-2012 noted that the system did not meet the goal of 41.6 percent proficiency in 7th-grade math, instead scoring 40.88 percent.
"This is an area we need to work on," Kirk emphasized.
The board goal for 2012-2013 was set at 44.6 percent proficiency for 7th-grade math, and at 45.4 percent proficiency for 3rd through 8th-grade math.
For 3rd through 8th-grade math, the system exceeded its goal of 41.4 percent proficiency by .4 percent in 2011-2012.
By the 2014-2015 school year, the board hopes to see 52 percent proficiency in both 7th grade math and 3rd through 8th grade math.
There are several key factors within the school system goal for graduate success.
Kirk noted that the graduation rate is already high for the county school system and will likely only see small gains.
Most of those who do not graduate, she noted, are students who transfer into the system late in their high school career with few credits, often because of an unstable home life.
For the 2011-2012 school year, the graduation rate was 94.1 percent, exceeding the board's goal of 93.4 percent.
The 2012-2013 goal has been set at 93.8 percent.
The system's average composite ACT score came in at 18.9 out of a possible 36, which was .3 above the system's goal.
Kirk said that the goal for 2012-2013 is 19.1.
A score of 19 is generally required at most public schools in order to avoid a requirement for remediary courses.
"I will dance a jig if we get there -- when we get there," she said.
End-of-course tests are also a factor, with English II having come in at 61.2 percent proficient in 2011-2012 and a new goal of 63.6 percent set for this year.
Algebra I scores are traditionally "very good" in the county, but the effect of having several novice teachers was a decline in scores for 2011-2012 to 59.7 percent, she explained -- significantly below the goal of 65.5 percent.
"We have to take responsibility for that," Kirk said. "We've got to get them up to speed faster."
She later noted a new Professional Development program that the system plans to introduce that will group experienced and novice teachers to form tests.
This will help new teachers know how they need to pace themselves and what they need to cover, Kirk said.
The board goal for 2012-2013 was set at 62.2 percent proficiency in Algebra I.
Kirk noted that the board also hopes to have 19 students graduate with 12 or more dual credits (high school/college) this year.
The system also hopes to begin tracking the number of students graduating with some form of certification, such as in welding.
"Gap Closure" was added to this year's list of goals to reflect new state standards requiring school systems to bring the scores of subgroupings in the school population closer to the average scores for the system as a whole.
"This is a very complicated goal, but one we knew we needed to include," Kirk said. "Students with disabilities are not improving as much as they need to improve."
She recommended including these students within regular classrooms so that they are exposed to grade-level concepts, in addition to having classes that teach them how to apply what they learn in a practical way.
The competencies for this goal were much the same as those for literacy and numeracy because "good teaching is good teaching," the director said.
Board member Nathan Brown recommended that the system review the possibility of having a "floater" at each school -- a specialist who could come in at a teacher's request to any classroom to help a student or group of students needing extra time and attention.
"Once they get left behind, they're gone," Brown said.
The board set the goal for student's with disabilities graduation rate at 88.3 percent for this school year.
Wellness, like gap closure, is a new board goal. It seeks to improve the percentage of students meeting their cardio-fitness goals.
These scores are taken in grades 4, 6, 8 and 9, Kirk explained.
Last year, 58 percent of males and 43 percent of females met their cardio-fitness goals.
This year, students will set their individualized goals in grades 4-9, and will participate in a minimum of 90 minutes of physical activity each week.
The board set the goal of 61 percent of males and 46 percent of females meeting their cardio-fitness goals by the end of this school year.
The board also reviewed goals related to Staff Success, which included:
* improving communication;
* bringing the salaries and benefits of certified employees (teachers, principals) closer to the regional average; and,
* improving results from the Teacher Evaluation Model.
The board goal for Staff Communication is to increase the percentage of employees responding that they "feel informed about what is going on" to 80 percent by 2015.
As for salaries and benefits, the goal average for Greene County was $42,924 last year, with a goal of $43,300 for this year.
Kirk said that she will continue to monitor regional salary averages, and she presented average salary levels from surrounding counties and surrounding systems.
For 2011-2012, Greene County was third on the list compared to surrounding counties, just under Washington and Hamblen counties, and 10th on the list of all surrounding school districts, including municipalities.
Greene County's salary average is $4,158 below the state average for all school districts.
Insurance benefits on individual employee plans were tied with most surrounding counties, but were near the bottom of the list for employee-plus-spouse or employee-plus-children insurance plans.
Finally, the board goal for the percentage of teachers scoring a "solid" score of 3 or better on their teacher evaluations is to go from 79 percent to 82 percent.
The maximum score is a 5.
In addition, the system has a goal of decreasing any "misalignment" of 2 points or more between the evaluation scores of the school system's principals and the state's performance scores.
The difference, according to the board goal for 2012-2013, should decrease from 35.4 percent to 32.4 percent.
The board also reviewed the director's evaluation for 2011-2012, in which Kirk's overall effectiveness rating was the maximum of 5, meaning that she was rated "significantly above expectations."
The board established this evaluation format with Kirk last year to be similar to the state evaluations that principals undergo.
She scored an average qualitative score of 4.75 from the Board's Rating Instrument, which was worth 35 percent of the overall score.
Achievement of Staff Success and Stewardship goals, worth 15 percent, came in at 2.5 on her rating: between "below expectations," 2, and "at expectations," 3.
She was awarded a 5, worth 35 percent of her overall score, in the category of improvements to the system's testing scores, known as "value added," for the past two years.
(Kirk requested that the board allow her to review the value-added scores one more time to ensure that the all data was considered.)
Finally, other achievement measures, including Race to the Top Reading scores, math scores and the graduation rate, worth 15 percent, were scored at 3.33 in her rating as schools director.
Board Chairman Roger Jones requested that future years also include an evaluation of programs that Kirk implements.
Finally, the board reviewed the system's goals related to stewardship, which included parent involvement.
The new goals call for monthly Parent Advisory Committee meetings at each school, parent surveys, and the implementation of a program to encourage parents to read for 20 minutes with their children each night.
Technology was also a key factor of stewardship, including forming a technology plan that solicits feedback from staff, students and the community.
The board also discussed continuing to investigate development of a wireless network at the schools in the system and providing regular updates to the district and school web sites.
Other stewardship items included implementing policies for energy savings and, finally, developing long-range planning.
"This one [long-range planning] will take a lot of work on my part, and on your part as well," Kirk said.
"Long-range planning isn't just about facilities, but it's also about what we need to have to make our programing as effective as it can be."
The board will work toward this goal through reviewing facilities needs, examining enrollment and staffing patterns, and holding Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee meetings.