by Danny Wade
Humboldt schools had a very special guest last week to get a firsthand look at the exceptional work being done in the classrooms. Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen made stops at Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School and East Elementary School last Wednesday morning.
“This is one stop of my Classrooms Chronicles tour,” Commissioner McQueen said at the end of her visit at East Elementary. “The goal is to meet with administrator and teachers about policies on the ground. We (department of education) continue to support them. I get input from kids, from the teachers. We want to create a culture to grow a strong workforce.”
“Commissioner McQueen visited Humboldt City Schools to hear from students and teachers about the continuing work around Tennessee Succeeds, the department’s strategic plan,” stated Dr. Versie Hamlet, superintendent of Humboldt City Schools. “Humboldt City Schools performed very well last year receiving the 2017 Exemplary District Status. It is an honor that Commissioner McQueen visited our schools to see firsthand the work that both students and teachers are doing. We have implemented a new, rigorous curriculum throughout the district and all stakeholders are diligently making strides so that our students are competitive in all postsecondary opportunities.”
McQueen said she was excited to visit Humboldt, especially with the school district receiving Exemplary status, the highest possible rating.
Under the Tennessee Department of Education’s accountability system, districts must increase achievement levels for all students and show faster growth in achievement for the students who are furthest behind in order to reduce achievement gaps, according to Dr. Hamlett. Rather than expecting all districts to meet the same benchmarks year after year, the accountability model acknowledges that districts are starting from different places and
rewards those that show the most growth.
East Elementary principal, Charlotte Shivley, was exceptionally excited to have the commission visit her school. Shivley made arrangements for McQueen to visit two classrooms—Katie Kulow’s 6th grade class and Lacy Barnett’s 5th grade class.
“It’s exciting for our teachers knowing the commissioner will be coming into the school and classrooms,” Shivley said. “All of our teachers give their all.”
“Exemplary status is for all schools and students. Stigall (Primary School) does a great job preparing students moving up to our school,” Shivley continued. “Students coming to us are better prepared. With the new curriculum, our students, and Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School’s are challenged. All are at grade level.”
Shivley explained that there’s more to data than people see. They make sure all subgroups are closing the gaps and make sure the students who need help the most are getting that help. They also enrich students who are achieving to move forward in their education.
“We examine all the data, all the ‘checks and balances’ and all categories must meet their goals,” Shivley added. “We (all three schools) help each other. That allowed us to earn Exemplary status.”
“Districts designated as exemplary are exceeding growth expectations on average for both all students and each historically underserved student group,” Dr. Hamlett further explained.
“It’s exciting to go into the classroom to assure we are meeting the needs of all kids through curriculum choices and push all kids to move forward,” McQueen said. “Here, I get a chance to see firsthand what they need, and how they are working as a team with every teacher.”
Humboldt City Schools earning Exemplary status as a district wasn’t a piece of cake. But having Commissioner McQueen visit to witness the hard work and quality of education being taught was ‘the icing on the cake’.