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School system rolls out HS Redesign

By DAWN HANKINS - dhankins@t-g.com
Posted 5/24/22

A condensed version of the new high school re-design plan was presented by assistant superintendent Tim Harwell during Thursday’s school board meeting.

This new facet of high school life, to …

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School system rolls out HS Redesign

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A condensed version of the new high school re-design plan was presented by assistant superintendent Tim Harwell during Thursday’s school board meeting.

This new facet of high school life, to be gradually phased in over a few years, will eventually require students to earn 28 credits for graduation.

But most of all, Harwell said, the goal is for students, through additional requirements, is to be more prepared for their futures.

Harwell had earlier this year presented a more in-depth presentation on the re-design, but said he wanted to provide more details now for stakeholders, prior to the board’s approval.

The former principal said, “Through those times, in those particular schools, I always said we could do better for preparing our students for the next phase of their life, whether it be the workforce, whether it be the military, whether it be college . . . TCAT.”

The redesign will be phased into high school life over several years. And the board unanimously approved on Thursday the re-design—a 4x4 block schedule and an increase in the number of credits students much have to graduate—from 22 to 28.

Harwell said really, this is nothing new and many area schools have already approved such standards for their respective systems.

“The current state of every county high school at this particular time is that our students are required the bare minimum . . . diploma project passed in 2009.”

Following the implementation of the Tennessee Diploma Project in 2009, high school students have been required to complete 22 credits to graduate.

They’ve been tested in core subject areas with End of Course (EOC) exams, part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP.

Their performance on these exams factor into their semester grade for the course. It’s not going to get any easier for high school students or teachers.

Harwell said it is time to rise above the bare minimum, as other area counties have already done so.

“Tonight, we’re going to propose to increase those [graduation] credits and will give the reasons why. Also, we feel like the value of our high school diploma should be worth more than what it is right now. I think we can do a better job for preparing our students, whatever they decide to do next.”

Harwell explained most seniors generally only have to take three classes (English IV, Math IV, economics/ government) their last year.

“What we are proposing tonight, is to make that senior year a better bridge to what they’re going to do after high school.”

Harwell showed on a pie chart the state accountability requirements for each high school—achievement, which makes up 30% and growth at 25%.

“Those two pieces of the accountability pie come from end-of-year testing.”

The supervisor also mentioned absenteeism, which is required to be at 10% or less within that state accountability.

Harwell explained that most students attend school 175 days, so if they miss 18 days of a calendar year, they’re considered “chronically absent.”

That is not good by state standards, he pointed out to the room full of citizens and teachers gathered in the Harris Middle School library.

The supervisor said it is the system’s goal, and common now throughout the state, to make a concerted effort for every student to get to school.

“We know there is a lot of research which says that every day a student misses school, is a day that they fall behind. It separates them from graduating high school.”

Harwell said the smallest portion of the state’s accountability pie is the county’s graduation rate.

“What we’re addressing tonight; we want our graduate rate to be higher than what it is right now. I feel as a result of what we’re proposing tonight . . . better opportunity to increase that number of students— those that will be ready to do what they choose to do next.”

See Saturday’s edition of the T-G for part II of this story.

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