Department of Education: Blount County school districts labeled ‘In Need of Subgroup Improvement’
By Matthew Stewart | (email@example.com)
The state Department of Education has identified Blount County’s three school districts as “In Need of Subgroup Improvement.”
Ninety-six school districts, including Alcoa City, Blount County and Maryville City schools, landed in the “In Need of Subgroup Improvement” category. Districts which received this designation might have successfully attained their goals in achievement, gap closure, or even both areas, while experiencing declines in subgroups of students.
Alcoa City Schools requires improvement in its black subgroup, according to the state’s accountability system. Alcoa City and 22 other school districts need improvement for black students.
“Our school system did a tremendous job last year, but we’re obviously concerned about the progress of our black students,” said Director of Schools Brian Bell. “We believe that putting integrity into the RTI (Response to Intervention) process and providing students with the appropriate interventions will help all students, including our black students. We’re working to address this issue.”
Blount County Schools requires improvement in its black and English Language Learners (ELL) subgroups, according to the state’s accountability system. Blount County and 22 other school districts need improvement for black students. Blount County and seven other districts need improvement for ELL students.
“I’m really proud of our teachers, students and administrators for their performance in the 2012-13 school year,” said Director of Schools Rob Britt. “However, we have some work to do in our subgroups. We’ve identified strategies to impact those areas, and we’re in the process of implementing them.”
Maryville City Schools requires improvement in its economically disadvantaged subgroup, according to the state’s accountability system. Maryville City and 28 other districts need improvement for economically disadvantaged students.
“When we look at the state’s data, we’re looking at two areas: achievement and gap closure,” said Assistant Director of Schools Mike Winstead. “Maryville hit 10 out of 11 academic measures last year, and we’ve already exceeded one target for next year with our graduation rate.
“We’re a high-achieving school district in all subgroups. Maryville’s economically disadvantaged students, or children who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, are performing 20 percent to 25 percent above the state average for economically disadvantaged students, so the (accountability) designation is a little hard to swallow. However, we know that we can do better.”
Educators are working to implement strategies, such as intercessions and Maryville Academic Success House, that will accelerate the achievement of Maryville’s lower-achieving students, Winstead said. “We have more than enough student data and more than educational research to figure out ways to better serve our students. Now, it’s about putting those pieces together.”
In February 2012, the U.S. Department of Education approved Tennessee’s waiver request from certain provisions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The state’s school district designations are an outgrowth of the new accountability system.
The new system looks for school districts to increase achievement levels for all students and reduce achievement gaps. School districts are identified as one of four categories:
• In need of improvement
• In need of subgroup improvement
State officials have identified five districts as “exemplary,” 32 districts as “intermediate,” three districts as “in need of improvement overall,” and 96 districts as “in need of subgroup improvement.”
Last year, they identified 21 districts as exemplary, 57 districts as “intermediate,” three districts as “in need of improvement overall,” and 54 districts as “in need of subgroup improvement.”