BY SARAH R. GREGORY
The Greeneville City School System was recognized as one of the very best school districts in the state Monday evening during the third annual SCORE Prize event in Nashville.
The local system did not receive the top SCORE prize, which was awarded to the Trousdale County School System, but Greeneville school administrators say being selected as a finalist is itself an honor, since the award is based on "dramatic gains" in student achievement.
SCORE -- the State Collaborative On Reforming Education -- is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan advocacy and research institution founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist. Its stated mission is preparing students for college and the workforce.
The organization recognizes the Tennessee elementary school, middle school, high school, and overall school district with the biggest gains in student achievement.
SCORE committees create a list of finalists from Tennessee schools and school systems of all sizes, then share the finalists' success stories in an effort to improve education for all students.
In the coming weeks, videos and in-depth case studies of SCORE prize finalists -- including the Greeneville City Schools -- will be released in order to highlight "best practices in improving public education in Tennessee."
The judging process begins with a blind review of student assessment and achievement data.
SCORE committees do not initially know which schools or school systems they are placing as finalists, since data is blindly measured on a rubric based on student assessment data.
Several weeks ago, the Greeneville City School System was named one of only three finalists in the state for the district-level SCORE Prize and the accompanying $25,000 award. The other finalists were the Kingsport School System and the Trousdale County School System.
SCORE officials announced Monday evening that the Trousdale County School System -- located northeast of Nashville -- had won the district-level award and the related monetary prize.
Earlier in the month, a selection committee from SCORE spent the day in Greeneville to visit various schools and conduct focus-group sessions with administrators, Board of Education members, principals, teachers, students, and parents.
Each of the other two district-level finalists underwent the same process.
EVENT 'A CELEBRATION'
A group of more than 25 educators, administrators, board members, and others associated with the Greeneville City School System attended Monday evening's event, which Director of Schools Dr. Linda Stroud described as "a celebration."
"The SCORE Prize event at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville on Monday evening was a very uplifting celebration of many great things going on for children in public education across our state," Stroud told The Greeneville Sun.
"We were excited to be there, and honored to be a finalist for the district-level award.
"We extend our congratulations to Kingsport City [Schools] as a finalist, and our most sincere congratulations to Trousdale County Schools as the district SCORE Prize winner," she added.
Greeneville City Schools consider selection as one of three finalists a proud achievement and a reflection of good things happening in local schools every day, Stroud said.
"I continue to be extremely proud of all of the educators in Greeneville City," Stroud said.
"They earned this recognition because of their daily commitment to our students. I hope that they will feel the satisfaction of knowing that they are winners every day! I am honored to serve our community with them," she concluded.
At the event, Frist praised the work of the schools and districts selected as SCORE Prize finalists.
"Our prize winners and finalists have shown that it is possible to prepare all of our students to be successful in college and the workforce," Frist said.
"The stories we heard from teachers, principals, district leaders, students, and other stakeholders are powerful," he said.
FRIST HOSTS EVENT
Frist was host for the event, held in the Laura Turner Concert Hall at Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville.
Gov. Bill Haslam and SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson spoke during the event.
"We are fortunate to live in a state that is committed to doing whatever it takes to prepare our students for the future, and Tennessee is truly leading the nation in this work," Woodson said.
Country music recording artist Jo Dee Messina gave a special performance for the more than 1,000 educators, parents, and students gathered for the event.
In addition to the best-school-district award, three schools -- one elementary school, middle school, and high school -- won $10,000 prizes for demonstrating dramatic gains in student achievement.
The school-level winners were: Norman Smith Elementary in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System; Frank P. Brown Elementary, in the Cumberland County School System; and Covington High School, in the Tipton County School System.
A SCORE selection team also visited each of the school-level finalists to see what educators are doing to produce outstanding growth in student achievement.
In addition to the school- and district-level awards, SCORE also awarded a $500 scholarship to a Metro Nashville Public Schools System high school senior, Sarah Martin, who won the 2013 "Students Rise to the Challenge" video competition.