Director of Schools Toni McGriff issues her last State-of-Schools report: Schools to go deeper into core curriculum

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Support programs offered for students, families

Each year seems to be more challenging than the last in public education.

In 2011-12, Roane County teachers and principals implemented a new evaluation program.

In both cases, student achievement counts 50 percent of the total score on the individual evaluation.

Simply put, that means that student test scores are critical to the evaluation of school personnel.

Since our main focus is student achievement and every decision made is geared toward improving student achievement, it is not unrealistic to measure us that way.

Teachers worked very hard to ensure that the strategies they were using are designed to help every child succeed.

Many observations and conversations were held throughout the year to achieve continuous improvement.

As previously reported, instructional standards were increased in 2008-09 and new assessments began in 2010.

Additionally, Tennessee is moving to the Common Core, a national curriculum that is more rigorous and designed to ensure that students will be college and career ready by the end of their high school career.

The first steps of Common Core came this year in K-2 mathematics.
Beginning in fall 2012, grades 3-8 will be making the conversion.
Common Core will have fewer standards, but they will be taught at a much deeper level with greater understanding.

Students will continue the move to Common Core in all subjects over the next few years.

Each change will bring more rigorous standards with more rigorous assessment. The new assessments will expect students to be able to think more deeply about subjects, be able to read much longer passages, and be able to write critically about those passages.

In order to prepare for these changes, Roane County educators will be involved in summer workshops and ongoing professional development.

Another major change this year was the waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.

Tennessee was granted a waiver because of the massive number of changes and the resulting drop in student scores.

With the waiver, the method of measuring school systems has changed.

Rather than meet arbitrary goals for adequate yearly progress, each school and the system must meet new annual measurable goals.

The new goals were determined in late March. TCAP testing was conducted in late April.

The annual measurable goals require us to grow in achievement by about 3-5 percent annually.

Generally, that is an achievable goal.

Additionally, each school and the system are required to close the achievement gap between subgroups and the whole group.

This means that those groups, (special education, minorities, and economically disadvantaged) who have not made sufficient growth, must now make even more growth to catch up with their peers.

Based on our very preliminary data, it appears that Roane County Schools will make our annual measurable goals in all areas except third-grade reading and English II.

However, both areas were extremely high last year, and since every year is a different group of students, it is hard to keep a continuous trajectory up.

Overall, we expect our district achievement to be good.

The report card will classify schools into three categories — exemplary, focus and priority. We do not expect to have any priority schools, but we may have two or three schools that will be focus, primarily because of the achievement gap.

One main focus this year was the improvement in math achievement.
With the help of math coaches at each elementary and middle school, teachers honed their skills and students learned more math than ever.

Some schools increased time on math, and others utilized individual assistance.

Early indications are that our math scores will increase dramatically this year.

We also began summer math programs for students who want to get an extra dose of math before the next grade. Jump Start Algebra is for eighth-graders going into Algebra I and Jump Start Math is for rising sixth-graders. Both programs allow students to utilize hands-on instruction and real-life examples.

This year also saw the hiring of a science specialist. The focus of this program is to improve the teaching of science, especially at elementary school where it sometimes gets short shrift because of the focus on math and reading.

Teachers will have access to labs in a box, so that they can provide a wide variety of hands-on activities for their students and thus enhance the love of science in students.

Last month, our five high schools graduated just less than 500 students who earned almost $3 million in scholarships and awards.

Our major construction program funded with $32 million from TVA, moved to two projects this year.

A new Dyllis Springs Elementary School will be complete by the end of June. Additions to Midway High School should be completed by mid-July.

Both projects are coming in on time and within budget.

New lighting and new HVAC has been installed in several schools to improve energy efficiency. New gym floors have been added to two high schools, and painting and summer maintenance are under way.

One of our highlights in Roane County Schools is our SchoolWide Positive Behavior Intervention Support.

This program teaches expectations for good behavior and then acknowledges that good behavior.

Schools that utilize the program report significant decreases in student misbehavior.

The after-school program, funded by grants, continues to be a success.

More than 1,800 students participated in classes after school. Those classes covered a wide range of interests.

Students could select from art and music programs, recreational programs such as archery, dance, photography and academic areas.

Our student support program continues to help students and families to help remove barriers to success.

Many of our families face difficult issues such as poverty, drugs, family discord and other issues.

Many of our children have daily struggles just to get to school.
Support teams made up of a therapeutic counselor and a social worker provide multiple types of help and support utilizing many community agencies in order to help children function and be successful.

Our BackPak Program continues to provide non-perishable food to more than 200 children (along with younger siblings) each Friday during the school year.

These children might not have enough food to get through the weekend without this support.

This project is conducted through Second Harvest and helps reduce the food deficit for many families.

The School Food Service program continues to provide nutritious meals for students and adults each day.

Approximately 1.3 million student meals were served this year. About 5,000 lunches are served daily.

School transportation is provided to almost 5,000 students by 60 school buses daily.

School buses safely travel approximately a million miles per year.

Our collaboration with the Roane County Sheriff’s Office provides school resource officers who cover all our schools.

They help provide a safe environment, but just as importantly, they serve as positive role models.

The schools in Roane County are very good schools.

Everyday, our teachers, administrators, support personnel, students and families work to help us move to greatness.

Our goal is always continuous improvement, and there is always work to be done.

It has been my pleasure to serve Roane County for the past seven years.

The new school year begins with new leadership who will bring more good things to the district.