Categories
Press Releases

State Names 169 Schools ‘Reward Schools’ for Academic Achievement, Growth

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Education; August 27, 2012: 

BRENTWOOD – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman today announced 169 schools as the 2011-12 Reward Schools, the top 5 percent of schools in the state for annual growth and the top 5 percent for academic achievement.

The Reward Schools are spread across 70 districts, located in major cities as well as rural areas, and 102 of the recognized schools serve mostly economically disadvantaged populations. A list of the schools can be found on the department’s website, at www.tn.gov/education/accountability.

Many of the state’s schools celebrated by tuning in for a special webcast featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Haslam, First Lady Crissy Haslam and Huffman.

“Tennessee is leading the way in education reform, and these schools demonstrate two key focuses of education in our state: high levels of achievement and continuous growth,” Haslam said at an event held at Kenrose Elementary School in Brentwood. “Job creation and education are inextricably linked, and continuing our momentum in education reform is important as we work to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. We are proud of the teachers and staff at each of these schools and excited to recognize their efforts on behalf of Tennessee students.”

Tennessee has set out to become the fastest-improving educational system in the country by raising student performance each year. For the first time, the state has recognized Tennessee schools that have shown the most progress year-over-year alongside the schools with the highest achievement scores on statewide tests.

Nearly a quarter of the 169 schools on the Reward School list actually earned both designations, rising to the top 5 percent for annual value-added growth while also ranking in the state’s top 5 percent for overall achievement, according to a new accountability system adopted through Tennessee’s No Child Left Behind waiver.

The 2011-12 Reward Schools made these impressive accomplishments during a year when Tennessee saw unprecedented gains on the statewide Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP. As schools across the state made improvements and reached higher levels of proficiency, the 169 Reward Schools led the way.

Because Tennessee’s new accountability system rewards growth and recognizes schools’ varying baselines, every school in the state can strive for the Reward Schools designation.

“We believe that all students deserve strong schools where they can grow to high levels of achievement,” Huffman said. “At the beginning of each year, every school in this state should know that they have a shot at becoming a Reward School.”

Categories
Education

Huffman Optimistic TN’s New, Long-Form NCLB Waiver Request Will Win Approval

Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman says Tennessee is still “well-positioned” to get a waiver from the federal government on the No Child Left Behind law, although the state was caught off-guard by some criteria for the move.

Tennessee applied for a waiver in July and expected a fairly quick response. The state had also heard substantial positive feedback from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about its chances of getting the waiver.

But the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance material in September outlining what was required in the waiver process, and the state is looking at a Nov. 14 deadline to submit a revised application.

Huffman acknowledged one aspect of the guidance came “out of left field.” That item requires the state to identify 10 percent of its schools where achievement gaps are pronounced and how to address them.

The achievement gaps could be in any number of subgroups, such as how white students perform compared to non-whites, or how students from low-income families perform compared to other students.

Huffman said there is a lot of overlap in the state’s original waiver application and what is required in the follow-up, but he noted the “focus schools” in the 10 percent looking at achievement gaps presented the department with a new task in terms of requirements and specificity.

“This we did not anticipate until we opened up our guidance at the end of September,” Huffman said.

He said the state would attempt to target interventions for schools with achievement gaps, and he said competitive federal grants could provide the resources needed.

A later deadline than Nov. 14 will also be available early next year for states to apply, Huffman said.

“People have suggested only 5 or 10 states are positioned to get a waiver in the first round, primarily because most states have not gone down the path on some of the things we’ve gone down the path on,” Huffman said in a presentation this week to the Tennessee State School Board. “So I think we’re well-positioned relative to our peers to get a waiver.”

Huffman said the state’s original waiver request was seven-and-a-half pages long, but he expects the Nov. 14 application to be hundreds of pages long, including attachments.

The commissioner said one strength in the state’s application, as in the original application, is its intervention efforts on the bottom 5 percent of schools in proficiency. Those efforts include Tennessee’s steps in developing its achievement school district.

Huffman said the federal government has not said publicly when a response to the application could be expected, but he said the state would like to hear results by the end of this year. The process would involve simply meeting criteria for the waiver and would not be a matter of Tennessee competing with other states.

Many states have complained about unrealistic expectations in the No Child Left Behind law as it stands pertaining to adequate yearly progress, or AYP.