Six FOCUS awards were presented at the annual Blount County Teacher Institute on Aug. 7, just before the start of the 2018-2019 school term. The word FOCUS stands for the specific area of focus selected by each school upon which to concentrate extraordinary improvement efforts for the year.
Appalachian: The school created a strong focus on third grade reading. At the beginning of the year, only 24 percent of third graders were reading at or above grade level, based on multiple measures of data. With an approach using intensive instruction, access to books, student choice and designated reading time, 90 percent of students were reading at or above grade level, based on test data. The school had the highest aggregate score in percent of students meeting growth targets, as well as the highest percent of individual students meeting their annual growth targets. Results in reading carried over to math, where 74 percent of students also met their annual growth.
Southeastern: Consistent with state department of education emphasis, the school focused strong efforts on overall attendance, with specific attention to reducing the incidence of chronic absence, defined as the number of students missing 15 or more days during the school year. Result: Southeastern had the lowest rate of chronic absenteeism in the county system.
Hayden High School and Cleveland High School: An important accountability focus for the entire district is the percentage of federally-defined graduates who demonstrate college and career readiness. By recent data, both schools have a graduation rate of 90 percent or above, as well as 90 percent or above in number of students scoring above the target level in one or more indicators of college/career readiness.
Hayden Elementary School: The school’s focus area was strengthening school culture by making all students feel an increased sense of belonging and a heightened excitement in learning. The school committed to a focus on advocacy and student engagement in areas like science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM), maker spaces (designated areas in libraries and classrooms for “making” things), coding, and technology. It is reaping the rewards through heightened student involvement and student success which should carry over into their subsequent development.
Locust Fork High School: The school implemented a strong focus on rigor over the past year, resulting in an energized school culture, daily instruction, and student achievement. Teachers have participated in hundreds of hours of content-specific professsional learning and students have committed to Saturday study sessions and pursuing academic excellence. Results: the school has increased its advanced placement (AP) course offerings from one or two to seven. In the spring, 25 students received qualifying scores on AP exams, saving their families collectively more than $35,000 in college tuition.
Assistant Superintendent Stoney Beavers expressed special thanks to the Blount County Education Foundation for sponsoring the FOCUS awards event.