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School directors react to state designations

By Crystal Burns

Directors of Schools for all five county school districts have shared their initial reactions to the Tennessee Department of Education’s designations, released recently along with TNReady (third-eighth grade assessments) and End of Course (high school) test results.

The Gibson County Special School District (GCSSD) received the state’s highest designation, earning Exemplary status. The Bradford, Milan and Trenton Special School districts were all classified as Advancing, and Humboldt City Schools (HCS) are In Need of Improvement, according to the state.

Humboldt missed the state’s expectations by one-tenth of a point, which lowered the system’s designation status, Dr. Versie Hamlett explained.

The state also recognized the Bradford Special School District (BSSD) for improving third grade English/Language Arts (ELA) scores by 25.4%, and the Milan Special School District (MSSD) for improving third grade ELA scores by 10%. GCSSD improved End of Course (EOC) scores in Math and ELA by at least five percentage points.



Dan Black, BSSD

“Bradford Special School District’s TNReady achievement scores were positive in each grade band. The chronic absenteeism rate, graduate rate and the Ready graduate indicator all showed upward trends. While our overall district achievement determination was Advancing, we did not experience the growth we expected in a few subject areas. This will be our district focus moving forward this school year.”

Eddie Pruett, GCSSD

“Last year was another banner year for our district. It is rewarding to see all the hard work of our students, staff and families pay off with exceptional results. I am thankful to work in a district that not only has high expectations, but consistently exceeds those expectations. It is amazing to think that here in Gibson County you have scores that are some of the highest in the state and have been that way for many years. GCSSD’s success comes from a partnership between families, school and community. I look forward to continuing the excellence again this school year.”

Dr. Versie R. Hamlett, HCS

“While the overall results were not what we wanted to see for our district, there were many areas where improvement was seen from 2018-19. There is a tremendous sense of urgency to continue to improve. We have an intense focus on improving elementary math and middle school math and literacy. We started our full improvement efforts with a rigorous curriculum to align with state standards and testing in 2017-18. Significant literacy gaps were seen before the new curriculum was implemented and now, we are seeing improvements as the gaps are closing. All of our schools are receiving intensive coaching and ongoing support, providing powerful core instruction, creating more engaging learning opportunities and developing a community network around our schools to better support the whole child. Absenteeism has played a major role in the calculations of our district’s accountability. Almost 15% of our students were considered chronically absent last year. This affects classroom instruction greatly. Our team has implemented aggressive measures to decrease student absenteeism, and we need parents to make sure students attend school daily. School turnaround work is a five- to eight-year journey. We are encouraged by the growth seen thus far. I am incredibly proud of our teachers and administrators. We are in this for the long haul, and we are working tirelessly to improve all of our schools.”

Jonathan Criswell, MSSD

“We are excited about the Advancing designation by the state as we celebrate the continued growth in both academic performance and educational opportunities. We continue to experience growth as measured by state value-added scores as we are working daily to provide the best possible learning environment for all of our students from the most at-risk to the highest achieving. With the growth of individual students, we also experienced a collective increase in the number of students scoring at or above the proficient level on the state tests. Moving forward, our teachers will continue their work to give students the chance for academic success that will make our community proud. The Milan Special School District is a wonderful place to work and to learn. This year’s state report demonstrates the continued drive of our district to consistently provide a culture of excellence that delivers the academic, social, and emotional environment our students deserve.”

Tim Haney, TSSD

“We are as a district classified as Advancing, the second highest classification. We performed very well in four of the five applicable areas used in the Tennessee Accountability Model: grades 3-5 success rate, grades K-12 chronically out of school, grades K-12 English language proficiency assessment, and graduation rate. Trenton Elementary had a good year, meeting their school improvement goal to maintain or increase Level 3 on growth. We are also proud of the growth TES saw with their subgroups (BHN, ED, SWD), especially the fourth grade ED students who significantly out-performed the state. And, while TRMS and PHS had pockets of good to great results (fifth and eighth grade math, high school English and Social Studies), we came up significantly short of expectations in growth, or as the state summary indicated, ‘District is improving on average but is missing growth expectations.’ A path forward has already begun, with some major changes, specifically in the math program at Peabody. At a time when our ACT scores are at an all-time high, the hit we took in TNReady growth is disappointing and is being addressed.”

*The accompanying charts show the percentage of students that scored On Track/Mastered in specific testing areas.

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