All three Bartlett-area school districts — Bartlett City Schools, Arlington Community Schools and Lakeland School System — have achieved Exemplary status for their performance. They are among just 12 school districts out of 142 statewide with that designation.
Achieving the state’s highest designation is even more notable because all three were in their first year of operation as new municipal school districts, the superintendents and school board members say.
Exemplary districts have three distinctions: They raise student proficiency levels, narrow achievement gaps between different groups of students, and guarantee academic growth for all students. Student subgroups include those with disabilities, racial minorities, English learners and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Each district also has individual schools earning the honor of being designated as Reward Schools.
“From day one, I have stressed our goal to build a strong base. Being an Exemplary district is a tribute to the hard work of our students, teachers, support staff, and parents,” he said. “I am grateful for the support of our school board. Their impact should not be overlooked.”
BCS Board Chairman Jeff Norris said, “This is a testament to important work done this past year by Superintendent Stephens, his administrators, and all the great teachers in Bartlett City Schools. This designation lays a great foundation for the district. I am excited as we look ahead and move towards more innovative approaches to individualizing student education.”
The BCS press release stated, “While BCS is extremely proud of its inaugural year’s work, we recognize the need to ensure continued growth in student learning. Support-ing our teachers as they meet students’ needs is a priority. Our strategic plan includes differentiated instruction and support for all students, increasing student engagement through the use of technology, and effective professional development for teachers and staff.”
ACS received a 5, the highest possible score, in each of the four value-added categories (district-wide composition, literacy, numeracy, and the combined literacy and numeracy). Of the 10 state-mandated exams administered, ACS increased proficiency in all 10 subjects, as well as exceeded the state’s average in each area.
Superintendent Tammy Mason said, “I am extremely proud of the work that our students, teachers, and administrators accomplished in our inaugural school year. Most importantly, I am proud that our district not only met or exceeded our achievement goals, but we also showed tremendous growth. This is a testament that our teachers are meeting students at their instructional levels.”
She continued, “ACS’s philosophy is to focus on teaching individual students, not to simply teach a curriculum to a class. Having a very deliberate process to do this has contributed to the distinction of being one of only 12 districts in the State of Tennessee to be identified as an Exemplary School District as well as having two of our four schools being designated as Reward Schools. We have laid the foundation to continue our work as we begin our second year. We will continue to invest in our teachers and administrators as we build our academic program to meet the needs of the students in our district.”
Arlington High increased 10 percentage points or more in four of the high school subjects (Algebra I, Algebra II, biology, and chemistry) and achieved a value-added composite score of 5. Arlington Middle continued to increase its overall proficiency in all subject areas, significantly improving its overall math rate by 6.3 percentage points.
Arlington Elementary had 90 percent of its students score proficient/ advanced in math and science, and the school-wide value-added composite is a 5. Donelson Elementary improved math proficiency by 4.9 percentage points and earned a value-added numeracy score of 5.
Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell said, “These honors are a direct reflection of the hard work and high academic standards of our teachers, staff members, administrators, and school board as well as the commitment of our students and parents to meet those high standards. I could not be more proud of our district.”
He added, “While we will continue working hard to improve as a school, it is gratifying for our teachers to be recognized for their hard work this year.”
LSS, along with the other recognized districts, raised proficiency levels on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assess-ment Program (TCAP) tests, among other accomplishments. Lakeland students’ district-wide TCAP achievement scores ranked number one in the state in both math and reading/language arts and ranked number two in the state in science.
Lakeland Elementary School principal Joretha Lockhart said, “Because our students were engaged and eager to learn, their performance on the TCAP exceeded our academic expectations. I am so incredibly proud of each one of them.”
LSS board chairman Kevin Floyd added, “This is a tremendous accomplishment. We are extremely proud of our teachers, faculty, staff, students, and parents. The future is bright in Lakeland.”
Four area schools were named to the state’s list of Reward Schools for high performance, and one was removed from the list of Focus Schools needing improvement.
♦ REWARD SCHOOLS are those honored for either progress or performance.
A Reward School for Performance designation means the school is in the top 5 percent in state, as measured by overall student achievement levels.
A Reward School for Year-Over-Year Progress means the school is in the top 5 percent in the state, as measured by school-wide value-added data.
Arlington has two Reward Schools, both for performance: Arlington Elementary School and Donelson Elementary School.
Bartlett has one Reward School, also for performance: Bon Lin Elementary School.
LSS has its sole school named as a Reward School, also for performance: Lakeland Elementary School.
♦ FOCUS SCHOOLS are the 10 percent of schools in the state with the largest achievement gaps between groups of students, such as racial and ethnic groups, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with disabilities, and English-language learners.
According to the website for the Tennessee Department of Education, “This designation does not indicate low overall achievement levels. In fact, Focus Schools may be high-performing schools that are working to close gaps between groups of students.”
Rivercrest Elementary School in Bartlett has demonstrated significant progress and is no longer considered a Focus School. Principal Portia Tate on Monday talked about the positive change and how happy she was to hear the news directly from Superintendent David Stephens.
“We’re just very pleased that we made this accomplishment,” she said. “It was due to the students’ and teachers’ hard work.”
She also credited some of the school’s improvement to the RTI Squared program. RTI stands for “Response to Intervention,” designed to help struggling students with extra help in small groups.
The “Squared” part of the name reflects how the school bumped up the program’s rigor for the 2014-15 school year.
“I’m very pleased — this is very good for the school,” she said.
Bolton High School in the Shelby County Schools (SCS) district was added this year as a Focus School because of the large achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students vs. non-economically disadvantaged students. A spokesman for the school was not immediately available on Monday for comment.
For information on other Tennessee schools, see tn.gov/education/article/2015-school-accountability.