ELIZABETHTON — The release of report cards for school systems and individual schools last week shows there has been progress made by both Carter County and Elizabethton schools, but the high goals set by the federal Adequate Yearly Progress has resulted in several schools being listed as target schools.
“As I said on Friday, we are seeing improvements, not big improvements, but at least we are going in the right direction,” said Jerri Beth Nave, federal projects and testing director for the Carter County School System.
“Our achievement on AYP continues to be at or above the state levels and we are receiving mostly A’s and B’s” said Eddie Pless, director of testing, data and early learning for the Elizabethton City School System.
Both supervisors pointed to achievements being made at the high school level.
“Our high schools have been a strength for us,” Nave said. “Cloudland High School scores have been very strong for the past few years, with very strong graduation rates.”
Pless said Elizabethton High School continues to make strides and has been removed as a target school this year. The school had been targeted because of graduation rates, and Pless said the rate now stands at an impressive 96.4 percent. Systemwide, attendance is also high, with a 94.3 percent rate.
He said Elizabethton also ranks ninth best in the state on ACT scores, and has shown gains of 1.2 to 2.2 points on individual sections.
Nave said one of the biggest challenges for the county system is in math. She said a setback came this year with the retirement of a math teacher at Hampton High School. She said there has been training sessions in which a successful teacher at Cloudland has provided suggestions to the other county math teachers.
The need for more math instruction was a major topic of discussion at Monday’s meeting of the Education Committee of the Carter County Commission. Secondary Supervisor Danny McClain said more stringent state requirement have just come into play this year.
Under the old requirements, McClain said students needed only three math courses and three science courses. They now need a total of 21 credits to graduate.
“We didn’t have a lot of seniors taking math,” McClain said of the former requirement. Now, there is an additional 500 slots for advanced math courses.
Committee member John Lewis asked how the advance math courses will help in everyday life.
Director of Schools Shirley Ellis said that is one of the new requirements for math teachers, to explain to the students exactly how the math they are learning relates to everyday life.
McClain gave a personal example. He said he was building a house a few years ago and had to order lumber for his roof. Even though he was not an expert at math, he learned he used the Pythagorean theorem in order to figure out the dimensions he needed.
Committee member Sonya Culler said another thing that needs to change is to place more emphasis on ACT scores and less on grade point average. McClain agreed, saying some students avoided taking hard courses in order to maintain a higher grade point average. That led to lower ACT scores because they did not have the math and science experience needed.
Culler said that also led to students having to play catch up in college and spending money on remedial courses.
Both Nave and Pless said the immediate future is unclear because of the state’s application for a waiver from federal requirements.
Nave said if the waiver is granted, it won’t mean things will be easier. There will still be a need to close the achievement gaps between students with disabilities and those without, although the state’s goals might be more realistic than the federal No Child Left Behind.
Pless said he will continue to work on school improvements as if there will be no waiver.