Grit and hard work got Allen Elementary School in Soddy-Daisy recognized Thursday as one of the top schools in Tennessee, Principal Earlene Weeks said.
“We don’t tell the children they are smart,” Weeks said. “We tell them they are a hard worker. Grit — grit is what we have here at Allen Elementary.”
Hamilton County had six schools among the 168 “Reward Schools” recognized Thursday by the state for performance on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program standardized test in the 2013-14 school year.
Reward Schools are those in the top 5 percent of schools for performance, such as Allen Elementary, and the top 5 percent for progress, such as Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy. CGLA is Tennessee’s first single-gender public charter school and embraces a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum.
“In two years, CGLA not only came off the high-priority list from the bottom 5 percent, we were named a Reward School two years in a row,” CGLA co-founder Dr. Sue Anne Wells said in a statement.
The six Reward Schools in the Hamilton County Department of Education is a reduction from 11 such schools last year.
“We’re down,” said Kirk Kelly, the district’s director for accountability and testing. “What happened is, we had a couple of schools that were Reward Schools, but their ‘gap’ increased.”
If the results gap between the scores of the school’s entire student body and the subset of black, Hispanic and Native American students grows, then schools aren’t eligible for Reward School status, Kelly said.
Out of the 168 Reward Schools in Tennessee, 67 were recognized for performance only, 84 were chosen for progress only, and 17 got the nod for both performance and progress.
“Because our accountability system recognizes growth and different starting points, we have enormous diversity in our Reward Schools,” Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said in a statement.
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Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.