Highlighting progress: Britt praises efforts of Union Grove Middle

Union Grove Middle School has made good strides in academic success, and Blount County Schools Director Rob Britt doesn’t want that forgotten.

Each year school districts receive reports of their schools’ progress based on Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) achievement tests. Each school’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status is determined by results from 2010-11 TCAP tests for grades three through eight and the Gateway exams in English II and Algebra I for high school students. Those results are released in the summer.

Schools also are measured for attendance, graduation rates and test participation rates as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. That data is released in November.

When the July results came this year, Union Grove showed that it had gone from being on the danger list to being first in TCAP performance in three years.

Britt highlighted Union Grove’s accomplishments at the Thursday, Sept. 1, Blount County School Board meeting, saying he plans to take time during each monthly school board meeting to showcase those schools who are improving.

“What we’re trying to do is highlight some of our top performing schools at the board meeting,” Britt said. “Each month I’m hoping to highlight some schools that are really performing extremely well and give those principals and teachers an opportunity to come up and hear how much we appreciate the outstanding work they’re doing. We really believe great test scores validate the great teaching and learning going on in our schools on a daily basis.”

During the meeting, Britt presented about 10 slides showing what the school’s 2011 test results. “In a three-year period they went from having poor results where they were one of our lowest performing schools to this year where they are one of our highest performing schools,” Britt said.

Britt said that Union Grove Middle School had the highest academic growth gains in all four core subjects in Blount County School System for middle schools. “They far exceeded the state growth standards in all four core subjects,” he said of results from this past spring’s TCAP tests.

In addition to improved TCAP scores, Union Grove Middle also has met AYP figures each of the past three years.

Britt said several years ago, Union Grove Middle had not hit AYP standards. “They’ve met it the last three years in a row, but they were not growing their students up to the minimum growth standard as a whole,” he said. “This year, the 2011 school year, they were growing students well beyond the state standards and showing some very high performance over very difficult standards.”

Britt said what Union Grove Middle’s administrators, teachers and students did wasn’t easy. “The state curriculum standards changed dramatically two years ago. What that means is, they became much more rigorous,” he said. “In many cases, what was taught in the fifth grade was moved down into the third grade. That is just one example.”

Britt said as a result of more rigorous curriculum standards across the board from K-12, the standards have shifted and are now second only to Massachusetts. “Our standards are as high as any in the nation as presented to us by the Federal Department of Education,” he said.

To make matters even more challenging, Britt said the state also made it tougher to be proficient. “These are very difficult standards. The ‘cut’ score determining proficiency moved up dramatically. The state equates mastery with proficiency now and that had not been done,” he said. “You had more rigorous and difficult standards and higher cut scores so obviously it affected the TCAP results.”

Britt said what is important is Blount County schools are making adjustments to those standards.

“The result of coordinating plans and executing plans is that the students and teachers are responding very well,” he said. “Overall, our system results were very good, and we’re very pleased. The majority of our K-5 and 6-8 and elementary and middle schools made good progress. We still have some schools in need of improvement, but we have the majority of our schools making really good progress, and I’ll be highlighting those top performers.”

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