The Tennessee Department of Education today named Rutherford County Schools as one of only 21 “Exemplary” school districts in the state and the largest district to earn the designation.
Only one other district in the Nashville area — Franklin Special School District — earned the same distinction.
“Everyone in our district plays a part in our achievements, regardless of whether you are a custodian, secretary, central office employee, teacher, principal, parent or student,” Director of Schools Don Odom said. “We emphasize a team-based approach to education, and it is crucial to our success we continue that strategy as we move forward.”
For the past several years, Rutherford County Schools has stressed the importance of Professional Learning Communities in every school, which allows teachers and staff members to work toward collaborative solutions for students. Odom credits the work of those groups as a major factor in the district’s accomplishments.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman announced the 21 exemplary districts today at an event in Sevierville.
These districts raised proficiency levels on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests; made substantial progress in closing gaps between groups of students; and ensured improvement for racial minorities, as well as students with disabilities, limited English proficiency and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Growing results while closing achievement gaps is incredibly hard work,” Huffman said. “We’re excited with the overall results across the state, and we particularly want to highlight those districts that have excelled in both areas.”
Tennessee’s new accountability system replaces No Child Left Behind’s Adequate Yearly Progress measures. Rather than expecting all districts to meet the same benchmarks year after year, the new system acknowledges that districts are starting from different places and rewards those that show the most growth.
The system, adopted after Tennessee secured a waiver from part of NCLB earlier this year, looks to districts to increase achievement levels for all students and reduce achievement gaps that exist between certain groups.
In 2011-2012, nearly every district in the state grew student achievement overall, but many did not successfully narrow achievement gaps or saw declines among particular student subgroups.
Districts that did not reach a majority of their achievement goals and did not significantly narrow a majority of achievement gaps are labeled as In Need of Improvement. These districts will meet in-person with department officials to set an aggressive, effective plan to meet the goals they missed last year.
Some districts met most of their goals in achievement, gap closure or even both, but saw declines among particular groups of students. These districts are In Need of Subgroup Improvement. Because the state strives to raise standards for all students, the districts labeled as In Need of Subgroup Improvement will focus efforts on addressing the declines among particular groups, such as students with disabilities.
Directors and data specialists at the Tennessee’s eight Centers Of Regional Excellence, or COREs, will support all districts in their plans to continue and expand improvement in the coming year, including fostering relationships between districts so they may learn from each other’s strengths.
A complete list of districts designated as: Exemplary, In Need of Improvement and In Need of Subgroup Improvement can be found on the Tennessee Department of Education website.