Monday, July 28, 2008

NCLB data show both successes and challenges

The State of Tennessee released Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results today based on No Child Left Behind benchmarks, and Knox County schools data show both successes and challenges to meet.

As a school district, Knox County Schools made adequate yearly progress toward meeting the NCLB benchmarks. Forty of Knox County’s 50 elementary schools and nine of the system’s 14 middle schools are in good standing based on the NCLB benchmarks. Only four of the county’s 13 high schools are in good standing. The full list of targeted and high priority schools is available at

A high priority school is one that has not made adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward the NCLB benchmarks for two consecutive years. Targeted schools are those that do not make AYP in a single year.

“The results from this year’s No Child Left behind assessments are certainly mixed,” said Dr. Jim McIntyre, superintendent of Knox County Schools. “As we look at our high schools, many are on the targeted list from the state solely for graduation rate. I expect to see some improvement in this area in coming years as we have restructured two high schools and have instituted freshman academies in several others. We have also implemented the first phase of a very promising literacy initiative across the county.”

“Literacy instruction at our middle schools and high schools is a weakness that we began to address last year,” said Dr. Donna Wright, Knox County Schools assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “Everything we do hinges on student literacy, and we had reduced these programs at the middle and high school level over the years due to fiscal constraints. The infusion of new BEP money last year will help us begin to restore our literacy programs. We had to defer implementation of the second phase of the literacy initiative in this year’s economically constrained environment.”

Wright explains that the system has challenges with literacy at all student performance levels. “Literacy is not just reading,” she said. “It is much more. Our approach to restoring literacy to our middle and high school curriculum will benefit both our struggling and our high performing students.”

“What we have learned with our high school students is that we do not lose graduates as seniors. We lose them as freshmen,” said Wright. “If students do not earn enough credits their freshman year to academically become sophomores, the chance of them overcoming that deficit and graduating is remote. That is why we are working very closely with our freshmen to get them a helping hand before they get in a credit deficit situation. While we are still collecting data, our freshmen academies are showing promise with respect to increasing students’ success in the critical first year of high school.”

“A significant challenge with our high school graduation rates is that many of our schools lose seven or eight percent of their eligible students before the rates are even calculated,” said Wright. “Students who earn a GED and leave school early count as dropouts against the state standard. Also, special education students who have met the goals of their individual education plans but who have not met all standard requirements for graduation are counted against the total number.”

“Dogwood and Norwood Elementary Schools have improved to the level that they are no longer on the state’s high priority list,” McIntyre said. “Since these two schools have improved so greatly, school of choice transfers will no longer be offered. Students who transferred in previous years may remain at their new school through the school’s terminal grade, but the school system will not offer transportation.

“The vast majority of students in Knox County are doing well and moving on to meet success in either the workforce or post secondary education,” said McIntyre. “However, we want to make sure that every student achieves all that he or she has the desire to achieve. This is our challenge and commitment to the students of Knox County.”