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Area educators seek improvements, not resting on laurels

July 29th, 2011 11:32 pm by Staff Reports

Two area schools have been identified by the Tennessee Department of Education as needing further improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind, Accountability and Adequate Yearly Progress standards.
The state listed Hampton Elementary School in Carter County and Unicoi County Middle School as needing further improvement. No Johnson City or Washington County schools were listed.
“I am pleased that we’re ahead of the standards,” said Robbie Anderson, Johnson City Schools’ improvement and accountability director. “But the real news is the request for a waiver of the No Child Left Behind (Act) plan by the governor and education commissioner. Tennessee already has its own accountability plan. I was pleased to see this request, and I think it’s reasonable. I really support it, and a lot of states are wanting waivers as well.”
The waiver request, sent to the U.S. Department of Education on Friday, asks that Tennessee be allowed to suspend federal requirements from the act and AYP for a period of four years, claiming there is a mismatch between the state’s goals and federal level goals and standards.
With the exception of Hampton Elementary, the latest results brought a lot of smiles to the central office of the Carter County School System. Although it was on the target list, Director of Schools Shirley Ellis said the school has shown “wonderful improvement” in the latest scores.
Ellis said the school system as a whole met all AYP goals in every area.
Hampton was placed on the list last year because the averages of special education students did not meet the standards.
To overcome the problem, Ellis said Carol Whaley, the school system’s special education director, and Jerri Beth Nave, the system’s federal projects and testing director, worked out an improvement plan that included bringing in a team of nationally recognized specialists to work with the school.
The results were apparent in the school’s latest scores, Ellis said. Hampton will remain on the list for another year because once a school is placed on the list, it takes two years to work itself off the list, but the school is designated as “improving.”
“If things continue as they have, Hampton will be coming off next year,” Ellis said.
Unicoi County Schools Director of Curriculum Jan Sutphin said the situation was similar with Unicoi Middle School, which did not meet the AYP goal in the area of students with disabilities in mathematics.
“We showed quite a bit of gain, just not enough to meet the target,” she said.
The school now has now been classified as a School Needing Improvement 2, which Sutphin said would mean extra requirements for the school, including receiving technical assistance from the Department of Education and offering supplemental services to students.
But the state’s waiver request may make these requirements unnecessary.
Sutphin said while UCMS did not meet AYP goals, she said it is important to keep in mind the gains the district made, with gains in math, reading, science and social studies. She said county educators have worked diligently and the number of students scoring at the below basic level has decreased.
“I think it’s important to keep in perspective the amount of growth we’ve shown this year,” she said.

Press Staff Writer Gary B. Gray, Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson and Erwin Bureau Chief Brad Hicks contributed to this report.

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