BY LAUREN HENRY
The Tennessee Department of Education has awarded the Greeneville City School System straight A's for system Academic Achievement.
The 2012 Report Cards for education were released Nov. 1 to reveal that Greeneville is consistently scoring above state averages in Academic Achievement.
The reporting measures and categories are revised from previous years as a result of the state's No Child Left Behind Accountability Waiver, approved in February.
Tusculum View Elementary School is once again a Rewards School, which means it is among the top 5 percent in the state for Academic Achievement related to achievement testing.
Hal Henard Elementary School is the only school in the system to achieve straight A's in both Academic Achievement and Academic Growth.
The state grades schools individually and school systems as a whole in both:
* Academic Achievement, which is a reflection of overall student performance at the time the testing is done, and
* Academic Growth, or "value-added," which measures a student's growth over the course of a year compared with the student's projected growth.
The Greeneville City School System has achieved A's in Academic Achievement consistently for the past three years. This represents TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Plan) scores for math, reading/language arts, social studies, and science for grades 3-8.
Individually, Highland Elementary School scored straight C's in Academic Achievement this year. However, this is an improvement over the last two years in math, social studies and science.
"We are committed to the students at Highland," said Dr. Linda Stroud, Director of Schools.
She said the system is looking at every possible way to increase achievement at Highland.
The first big change for Highland that has been made was the calendar change from a year-round calendar back to the traditional school-year calendar, in order to better fit with testing schedules for the rest of the school system and to allow teachers to attend scheduled school system training sessions.
"Even though their achievement isn't up with the other schools, they have had tremendous growth in both achievement and 'value-added,'" said Suzanne Bryant, assistant director of schools for instruction.
Hal Henard Elementary School increased math achievement in order to receive straight A's in Academic Achievement.
Academic Growth, also known as "value-added," is a bit trickier to understand. It measures a student's academic growth over a year compared with the growth that would have been anticipated for the student.
"Value-added predicts, based upon the child's previous test scores, what they should score to make one year's growth," Bryant said.
If a student develops over a year as predicted, that level of improvement is reflected with a grade of "C" or the number 0.
A positive number or a letter grade above C indicates that the student made greater Academic Growth than expected.
A negative number or a letter grade below C indicates less than expected Academic Growth.
"Value-added [Academic Growth] looks at the effect that teacher or school had on that student's growth, theoretically," Bryant said.
Theoretically, it is a more accurate picture of the school's role in Academic Achievement than merely looking at Academic Achievement alone.
For example, a school might earn A's in Academic Achievement and thus make the grade in achievement, but perhaps progress only as expected. This result would be reflected with mediocre Academic Growth grades from the state.
The goal of the Tennessee Department of Education is to enable students to progress faster than expected and thus raise standards.
"The more we achieve, the more we are expected to achieve," Bryant said.
Greeneville has a good record of doing just that.
As a system, Greeneville scored A's for Academic Growth in math and social studies (grades 3-8).
In reading/language arts and science (grades 3-8), Greeneville scored B's in Academic Growth.
Thus, the scores indicate greater-than-expected-growth in all academic areas.
Individually, EastView Elementary School struggled with math and science this year, making an F, or an average gain of -3.6, in Academic Growth for math, and a D, or an average gain of -1.9, for science.
In terms of Academic Achievement, EastView is making the grade with straight A's in all subjects.
The low Academic Growth grades indicate that the school hasn't moved students even higher than their already-high achievement levels.
According to the state figures, Hal Henard School has exceeded expectations, earning straight A's in Academic Growth.
Tusculum View, the Rewards School, is progressing better than predicted in all areas except science. In science, Tusculum View was awarded a C, or average gain of -0.3.
This means that Tusculum View, which has a history of achieving high grades, is growing as predicted in science.
Highland, which had mediocre Academic Achievement grades, picked up ground in Academic Growth, with A's in math and reading/language arts.
Highland earned C's for social studies and science.
GMS AND GHS
Greeneville Middle School received all A's in Academic Achievement.
Academic Growth grades, meanwhile, indicate that students are progressing more than expected in all areas except math, which earned a letter grade of D, or an average gain of -1.
Greeneville High School was awarded an A in writing for its TCAP grade 11 scores. The average score is a 4.4, exceeding the state average.
Similarly, ACT scores for Greeneville High School were higher than the state average, but the scores have dropped slightly from last year.
However, Stroud said that the fact that almost 100 percent of the students at GHS eligible to take the ACT tests are taking the tests makes the 21.4 average ACT score very commendable.
The state requires that students take the test no later than the spring of their junior year in high school.
There were 202 students tested at GHS in 2012 while only 157 were tested in 2011. The difference in score averages was a drop of 1.5 points.
"We tested 202 students, and we are very proud of that," Stroud said.
The graduation rate at Greeneville High reached 97.4 percent this past year.
Academic Growth is graded differently at the high school level from the way it is graded below the high school level. The status of a school is indicated as "below," "no detectable difference" (NDD), or "above."
GHS scored "above" in Algebra II, Biology I and U.S. History. An "NDD" score was given for English I, II, and III. Algebra I was rated "below" academic growth.
While the schools are expected to raise standards for all of their students, simultaneously, the schools are mandated by the federal government to close the gaps between historically lower-performing subgroups and the rest of the students.
Bryant said this is a new performance indicator this year.
It means the lower-achieving subgroups must improve at an even faster rate to both decrease the gap and reach closer to rising standards.
The school system failed to reach gap closure goals in all areas.
One subgroup, Hispanic students, showed a decline in most measuring standards.
"If you decrease in anything, you haven't reached expectations," Stroud said.
"You have to grow these students, but you have to grow these other students more to close that gap," Bryant said.
Economically disadvantaged students did not make gap closure goals in English II, Math or Reading and Language Arts. However, they did make gap closure goals in Algebra I.
Students with disabilities, however, met all gap closure goals.
WAYS TO IMPROVE
Bryant and Stroud said that the schools are constantly looking at ways to improve student success.
"We measure all students four times a year, which predicts proficiency levels," Bryant said.
These results are then used for what school officials call prescriptive tutoring for afterschool and tutoring programs.
"It is no longer just homework help," Stroud said. "It is tutoring that is specifically targeted to each child based on their skill needs."
Also, the schools have implemented RTI, Response To Intervention, which allows students 30 to 60 minutes of research-based instruction in the areas they need to work on. It is instruction in addition to the regular classroom time.
In the classroom, differentiating instruction helps tailor education.
"Differentiating instruction means just what it says. It is targeting instruction for each individual student based on where they are and their skills," Stroud said.
Stroud, who is in her first year as director of schools, has added an expectation that teachers sit down one-on-one with each student so the children have a better understanding of where they stand academically.
"They need to have ownership of their own learning ...The kids need to own it. It's their future," Stroud said.
However, she and Bryant agree that the real basis for student success lies in the teachers.
"It is the teachers. It is what is going on in the classrooms.We are just here to give them the support and tools they need," Bryant said.
"We are extremely proud of our teachers, but equally proud of our students and parents because this is a community effort," Stroud said.
"Education is not something we do to students, it is a partnership with our students and their families."
The full report may be found at http://www.tn.gov/education/reportcard/