Almost a month after the state department of education released its 2012 education report card, several county principals presented the board of education with their plans to improve scores.
Three factors affect standard growth of test scores, including socioeconomic conditions, students with disabilities and money spent per pupil.
“The line is going to be parallel,” said Donnie Poston, director of schools.
In Campbell County, $8,110 is spent per pupil per year. In Claiborne County, that number is $8,924. Scott County spends $8,388 per pupil per year. Anderson County Schools, which do not include Oak Ridge Schools, spend $9,324 per pupil per year.
The state average for per pupil expenditures is $9,123.
Campbell County High School
The 2011-12 school year is Jamie Wheeler’s second year as principal at the high school.
“First thing I did was I looked at my end of course data from last year and we changed some teachers around. Numbers speak for themselves, Data does not lie,” she said.
Wheeler outlined 10 objectives in her strategic action plan for this year. Besides teachers being changed, some of the Algebra I and Algebra II classes became A/B classes, meaning they last an entire year instead of in one semester.
“You have students that need an entire year of math instead of just one semester,” Wheeler said.
Board member Eugene Lawson questioned the high school’s math methods.
“I’ll guarantee 200 of them [teachers] can’t pass an algebra II test, but you’re telling me you’re teaching everybody in school to do algebra I, algebra II and even beyond. Now I want you to tell me how you’re doing it,” he said.
“I’ve got teachers working bell to bell, 90 minute classes,” Wheeler answered.
“They cannot master Algebra II as it was taught to me. If I come up there and ask them to handle the quadratic equation and process it all through, I’ll guarantee half your teachers can’t and I doubt if you can,” he said.
“I know I can,” Wheeler said.
The school’s flex lunch allows for mandatory tutoring for students struggling with math and English, and there are skills specific interventions in conjunction with regular classroom instruction.
Wheeler also utilizes professional learning communities so the teachers can learn from one another.
“I want math teachers working with my English teachers, everyone working together,” she said.
Wheeler also has her strongest teachers mentoring new or struggling teachers by watching them teach and giving advice on classroom management.
Wheeler believes these objectives, combined with their online ACT prep programs will push scores even higher for next year.
Caryville Elementary School
Caryville made gains in all four academic areas monitored, bringing its grades higher than the county average and almost equal to the state average. The school scored straight Cs, up from straight Ds last year. The county average is a C in math and Ds in reading, social studies and science. The state average is straight Bs.
Wynn Habersham Elementary School
Advanced and proficient rates increased from last year’s scores.
“We went up in mathematics. We went up in every area a little bit,” said Principal Donna Singley.
Additionally, the school met its gap closure goal. The target was 10.7 percent closure, and WES was at 9.7 percent.
Singley outlined plans to motivate students, including an awards day for high TCAP scores, student of the week awards and a high score benchmark wall. Additionally, several measures are in place to improve teaching methods and strategies.
Singley said 45 percent of students will become proficient or advanced in reading and language arts, 50 percent in math, 50 percent in science and 75 percent in social studies.
LaFollette Middle School
“LMS was a little shaky when I went there. We had issues with discipline. We had issues with climate. We had issues with finance. We had issues with overall climate and public relations for the perception of our community and I think we’ve addressed those in a lot of ways and to the positive,” said second-year principal Robbie Heatherly.
Discipline problems are down, and Heatherly said the students have been encouraged to take pride in themselves and one another. Building the rapport between students and teachers has laid a foundation for academic achievement.
“If you don’t have those things in place, you can’t improve yourself academically,” Heatherly said.
More than half of his teachers are level four or five teachers, and adding in the level three teachers brings that total to 82 percent of teachers who perform well in the classroom.
LMS teachers also visit other classrooms to collaborate on ideas that work in the classroom. Interventions are available to students that are below proficient or basic. Reading is also emphasized.
“If you cannot read, you cannot function,” he said.
Jacksboro Middle School
First-year principal Steve Rutherford is working through a high teacher-pupil ratio and a group of younger teachers.
“When the older people retire and you bring in younger people, I’m not saying they can’t teach, but it takes them a while to get to the level of those older people,” he said.
JMS students scored a B in math, C in social students and reading and language arts and a D in science. Some value was lost in reading and language arts, according to data. While Rutherford feels his students want to learn and his faculty is dedicated, the special education students “haven’t done very well.”
“I think the state has unreal expectations for those kids. I want them to be able to learn, but they have unreal expectations for them,” he said.
Only 15.7 percent of disabled students scored proficient or advanced in math. Only 28.1 percent of disabled students scored proficient in reading and language arts.
Rutherford identified overcrowded classes, a lack of support staff and the inability to find “highly qualified” 7th and 8th grade teachers as weaknesses. The lack of a guidance counselor was also cited.
Jacksboro Elementary School
The teachers feel empowered after the latest round of test scores, according to Principal Joan Crutchfield.
“What can I say, we came from CBDD to AABA [in value added],” she said.
The teachers work together in her school, she said.
“No longer are we competing amongst ourselves, we want to be the best school in the county. We want to be the best school in the state,” she said.
Crutchfield has taken a different approach to help students learn; she even has the cafeteria and custodial workers helping.
“My cooks and custodians all have a reading group. They do 15 minutes, three times a week. They enjoy it, and my kids enjoy it.”
LaFollette Elementary School
Gains may appear somewhat slower at LES, but Principal Meredith Arnold has implemented several ways to continue raising scores.
“Our pre-K through five, we’re increasing our vocabulary,” she said,
Physical education, library and music teachers provide small group intervention and literacy coach Sharon Johnson mentors new teachers. Title I funding provided the ability for retired teachers to hold small tutoring sessions.
“We’re bringing this up. Give us time, we’ll get there,” she said.
The staff also utilizes vertical planning to ensure students are ready for the next grade level.
“Vertical planning is when my first grade teachers get with my second grade teachers to ensure that the kids are equipped,” she said.
Elk Valley Elementary
There was almost no progress between last year’s and this year’s scores at EVES
“There’s really no detectable difference in our trend. Our value added was not anywhere near where I’d like for it to be,” said Principal Nancy Lay.
Among areas of need, Lay cited a need for parental involvement in academics, not just sports and a need for more personnel.
“In our lower grades, we’ve got a good, solid group of teachers. In our middle grades, we need a lot of support,” she said.
Additionally, Lay attributes part of the lower scores to a limited exposure to “societal and cultural experiences that are often commonplace in urban and/or high-income school districts.”
Plans implemented include moving teachers to maximize performance, offer professional development, use benchmark testing, and work toward a common curriculum. Lay also visits the classrooms “ensure intentional, productive teaching is occurring.”
White Oak Elementary
There are “good programs” at WOES that haven’t been fully implemented according to Principal Allison Poston.
“We do have an issue with our reading and language arts,” she said. “We’re gonna fix that. We have a target,” she said.
Students nearing proficiency in various subjects have been identified and will be worked with in a small group to increase their scores.
“If they’re nearing proficient, they’re almost there,” she said.
Poston also makes it a habit to visit classrooms and evaluate the teaching methods used.
“If I don’t see what’s going on, I can’t make it better. It makes the teacher very nervous, but it keeps them on their toes,” she said.
Jellico High School
JHS students jumped almost 20 percent in the number of students scoring advanced or proficient in algebra.
“Our target area for algebra was 37.4 percent are to be proficient or advanced, and we had 53.9 percent proficient or advanced for this past year, and the year before we were at 34.4, so we’ve made some gains,” said Principal Harry Chitwood.
The high school also utilizes tutoring, benchmark tests and a graduation coach.
The gaps are closing between the different economic statuses of the students.
“We do have a gap between the economically disadvantaged and the non-economically disadvantaged students, and based on the benchmark testing we’re doing, we’re reducing that gap.
JHS utilizes the same two-semester algebra courses to ensure lower achieving students will succeed.
Valley View Elementary School
Reading is heavily emphasized at Valley View, and some students receive up to two and a half hours of extra help if they are identified as at-risk.
“That’s very hard to work in, in a day’s time, but it’s the law and we’re doing it,” Principal Dixie Crouch said. “We’re using everything we can possibly do.”
The school is about to begin a program called D.E.A.R., Drop Everything And Read, a program that could be especially useful in the mornings before class begins.
Some students arrive at school as early as 6:30 according to Crouch. By gathering books, students who arrive before school will have the ability to use their time reading.
“We’re currently, at our school, gathering up every book we can find,” she said.
Representatives from Jellico Elementary School or the East LaFollette Learning Academy were not present.