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Test scores drawstate's concern

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bedford County has been designated "in need of subgroup improvement" and Community High School has been named a "focus school" by the Tennessee Department of Education.

In Bedford County's case, the designation means that Hispanic students and students with limited English proficiency haven't scored as high as desired by the state or have shown declines in test scores.

School Supt. Ray Butrum, speaking Tuesday night to Bedford County Board of Commissioners, noted that in terms of achievement, the county met all nine of the state's goals.


Bedford County was one of 54 school systems statewide receiving the "in need of subgroup improvement" designation. Another three districts were designated as "in need of improvement" overall.

Butrum told county commissioners that he's working with school principals and that each school is working to address specific subgroup issues.

Community's designation means it's in the bottom 10 percent of schools in the state in terms of achievement gaps between various economic groups, such as racial and ethnic groups, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with disabilities and English-language learners. The department has named 167 schools as focus schools.

Butrum told the Times-Gazette that Community High School has the fewest amount of subgroups of any school in the county.

New system

The state's new accountability system was designed as a result of the state's waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind act. On Monday, the state released a list of priority schools -- the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools statewide -- and focus schools.

Bedford County had no schools on the priority list, and only Community High School on the focus list. Schools identified as priority or focus will retain the designation and varied support for three years, from 2012-13 through 2014-15. The department will announce reward schools, the top-performing schools in the state, in the coming weeks.

Focus schools "are not necessarily there because of low achievement," according to a state news release. "In fact, many showed excellent growth last year. Rather, the focus designation provides districts the opportunity to look closely at particular subgroups of students who may be underperforming and to provide specific support and intervention."

Additional focus

The state says that designating priority and focus schools allows school districts to focus their efforts on improvement plans tailored to the areas where those schools need to grow student achievements. The state's Centers for Regional Excellence can also provide assistance.

"We want all schools to be intentional about improving student achievement, especially for students who are the furthest behind, and this year, we have been able to offer more nuanced measures of school accountability," said Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman in a news release. "We believe these measures will lead many schools to create effective intervention programs and ultimately address their needs for improvement."

The priority and focus schools lists, as well as an information sheet explaining the state's accountability system, can be found at tn.gov/education/accountability. District accountability information can be found at tn.gov/education/accountability/2012results.shtml.

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