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Reading, writing, arithmetic

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Are Campbell County students learning?

By Dwane Wilder

 Jacksboro Elementary Principal Joan Crutchfield took the floor to a hearty round of applause Thursday night during a special meeting at the Campbell County Board of Education office.

Principals of all 12 public schools in Campbell County, central office supervisors and board of education members were on hand to view a presentation and dissection of the latest state testing data.

The cause for celebration was Jacksboro’s recent designation as a Reward School by the Tennessee Department of Education for ranking among the top 5 percent in progress and high student growth. The award is based on a one-year school composite in the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System. 

“We didn’t get it for achievement, we got it for progress,” said Crutchfield.

Sixty-eight percent of Jacksboro Elementary students in grades 3-5

tested at the proficient or advanced levels last year in math and science on the TCAP, which was a double-digit increase from the year before. In reading and language arts, more than 55 percent of those same students were either proficient or advanced on the TCAP, which was an increase of several percentage points from 2011-12. 

“This year our goal is we’re going to be (celebrating) achievement and progress. As a principal, I expect only the best out of my students, faculty and staff,” said Crutchfield.

Jacksboro earned the highest marks it could receive in three of the four areas on the TVAAS Composite. There were a total of 169 Reward Schools statewide. Seventy schools were rewarded for performance, 83 for progress and 16 for both performance and progress.

“Jacksboro has always had a reputation for being a great school, but we just got a little bit lazy over the past few years,” said Crutchfield.

To return Jacksboro Elementary to its glory days, Crutchfield said she and her staff focused on nine common characteristics of what they thought a successful school should be.

The list included:

•A clear and shared focus

•High standards and expectations

•Effective school leadership

•High levels of collaboration and communication

•Curriculum, instruction and assessment aligned with standards

•Frequent monitoring of teaching and learning

•Focused professional development

•Supportive learning environment

•High levels of community and parent involvement

“We’ve gone from a focus school to a reward school. Our gains were way above and beyond,” said Crutchfield.

Jacksboro, one of 70 Reward Schools with a high percentage of Title I (socioeconomically disadvantaged) students, had a 94 percent attendance rate last year. Crutchfield also said the school will add a fourth pre-kindergarten class next year to accommodate parents who want to get their children an early start at a rapidly-improving school.

“I’m excited about the progress, but I hope in the next two or three years we can get just as excited about the achievement,” said Campbell County Director of Schools Donnie Poston.

“We’re trying to play catch-up with some of these new initiatives. There are so many things that affect student outcomes.”

During last week’s meeting, each school principal had a chance to speak about their successes, failures and potential solutions. They are as follows:

White Oak Elementary

“Looking at our data, our weak area is our lower elementary grades,” said Principal Allison Poston. “And you’ve got to improve the lower end before they get to the upper end.”

To improve student success, Poston said she moved teachers around. White Oak also offers academic tutoring one hour before school and two hours afterward.

 

Wynn-Habersham
Elementary

“My kindergarten through fifth grade teachers are well acquainted with looking at their data,” said Principal Bob Walden.

Wynn-Habersham lost three veteran teachers that Walden said would be hard to replace. He said to improve reading skills at the school, the staff, including himself, recently attended specialized training.

“On my bucket list I want to teach a kid to read and what it takes to do that,” said Walden.

 

Jacksboro Middle School

Principal Steve Rutherford said his staff met annual measurable objectives in all subjects and gap closures in everything except students with disabilities.

“It’s a good school. We’re getting some consistency in the faculty we have, and that makes a lot of difference,” he said.

 

Campbell County High School

“We met our target in all areas except English II,” said Principal Jamie Wheeler.

Another problem area at CCHS has been the failure of students to meet the benchmark score of 21 on the ACT college entrance exam required for unconditional admission to most four-year schools. The average ACT score for CCHS students is only 17.81.

To improve scores, Wheeler said students have been taking ACT prep classes on-line from LMU as well as instruction from retired teachers temporarily re-hired for that purpose.

A film crew from Vanderbilt University visited CCHS last week to interview students about its innovative flex lunch program. During the flex lunch period, students have one hour to eat, take a test or receive tutoring. Wheeler said she has heard nothing but positive comments about the flex lunch. CCHS is one of three schools involved in the production scheduled to air sometime in January on Vanderbilt’s YouTube channel.

 

Caryville Elementary School

“We met all our annual measurable objectives,” said Principal Lori Adkins, who added that she used a small portion of the school’s Title I funds for K-2 reading improvement.

Caryville has been faced with staffing problems in the push to help students improve their test scores. Nearly all the office workers have been shifted to the classroom, which has often left the front desk shorthanded.

 

Elk Valley Elementary

“We don’t have a P.E. teacher at our school. All of our teachers are doing their own P.E. Right now, that’s a big thing everybody is talking about at our school,” said Principal Nancy Lay.

 

Jellico Elementary/Middle School

“The biggest problem we have at Jellico is our sixth and seventh grades,” said Principal Robert Angel. “Sixth grade was our lowest performing grade level. Our kindergarten through fifth grades, I would put them up against any school in the state our size.”

Angel said his staff has tried to the change the atmosphere and appearance of the school, as well as putting new math and language arts teachers in place for the middle school and block scheduling for English classes.

 

Jellico High School

Principal Donna Singley said the school barely missed meeting its goal of a 91.7 percent graduation rate, but has a lot of work to do to improve its average ACT score of 16. To improve scores, 33 students have signed up for ACT prep classes offered on-line by LMU. Singley said she would like to see her library updated to Common Core standards.

 

LaFollette Elementary School

“We have shown growth, or we have maintained,” said Principal Meredith Arnold.

LaFollette has a very high number (83.8 percent) of socioeconomically disadvantaged students and one-third of all special education students in Campbell County.

“Basically (kindergarten students) come to us a year behind what the state says they need to be, and it takes until the fifth grade to get them there,” said Arnold.

With 785 students, LaFollette is also at maximum capacity.

 

LaFollette Middle School

Robbie Heatherly said student suspensions have been cut from 100 the year before he became principal at LMS to only 11 this year.

“I’m proud of our climate. We work very hard on that every day,” said Heatherly. “When you get a grasp on your climate you can do great things. Schools are about people; they’re not about numbers. We’ve got some great teachers. Eighty percent of my teachers are level four or five.”

 

Valley View Elementary

First-year Principal Jason Dotson is stressing accountability and responsibility. 

“Our areas of concern are grades 3 through 5 math, and reading and language arts in all grades.

“I’m confident in what we’re doing,” said Dotson. “We have a great PTO. One of the things I tried to do when I took the job was get the community involved.”