By Commissioner TIMOTHY WEBBTennessee Department of Education
This week the state Department of Education announced the list of high priority schools and systems that failed to meet federal benchmarks for student performance. All Tennessee schools are expected to improve learning each year to make Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind, the federal law governing public K-12 education.
These test results have profound effects on schools and school systems – the way they operate day-to-day, the way they are perceived in the public eye and most importantly, the way they move forward in educating our students. Schools and systems that repeatedly fail to meet AYP face sanctions, which could include increased professional development or, in cases of prolonged failure, more intense actions like complete state intervention.
While this year’s AYP results have brought great successes, we still have a lot of work to do. All of our school districts on the high priority list moved into “improving” status and 42 improving schools moved completely off the high priority list. While we congratulate these schools and districts, we must also look ahead.
As Commissioner of Education for the state, I feel a responsibility for the success of all of our students. It’s what we do. As part of our efforts to overhaul our state standards and curriculum over the past two and half years, we have made a commitment to no longer allowing continued failure, of any kind. It is for that reason that the department will implement a range of strong interventions to transform the schools and systems that continually struggle to make progress each year.
In Tennessee, we have 146 schools repeatedly failing to meet AYP. That’s 12 more schools than last year, and it’s only going to get harder as we implement increased learning standards and graduation requirements beginning this fall. Students, teachers and administrators will be repeatedly challenged, but it is these types of interventions that must be put in place so that our students can compete at the national and international level.
In Tennessee, it is time for education to turn the corner. We must bring a new focus to Math at the high school level and reading across all grade levels. We must be willing to try new avenues in schools that continually struggle and take drastic actions when necessary. We are on the threshold of great change in this state and now is not the time to stand idle.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be looking at our AYP data more closely, examining performance trends and making decisions about what is best for our students, our schools and our districts. We look forward to partnering with our school leaders in an effort to ensure our students a successful future.