Those honored for overall test scores among the state's top five percent included:
• Big Ridge Elementary
• Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts
• Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts
• Chattanooa State Middle College High
• Lookout Mountain Elementary
• Normal Park Museum Magnet
• Thrasher Elementary*
Those honored for growth in test scores among the state's top five percent included:
• Apison Elementary
• Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy
• Ganns Middle Valley Elementary
• Harrison Elementary
• Orchard Knob Elementary
• Snow Hill Elementary
• Soddy Elementary
• Thrasher Elementary*
Source: Tennessee Department of Education
*Thrasher Elementary was honored for both overall achievement and growth
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Twice the number of Hamilton County's schools were honored for high achievement and growth in 2013 over last year.
Tennesse Gov. Bill Haslam recognized 169 reward schools, including 14 in Hamilton County. Last year, six county schools received the distinction. Reward schools are those that place among the top 5 percent for overall test scores or growth on test scores.
That's a list that Orchard Knob Elementary is happy to be included on, after previous test scores put it among the bottom 5 percent of schools for overall performance. That distinction previously landed Orchard Knob and four other schools in the county's iZone, which is tasked with turning around years of low performance. But Principal LaFrederick Thirkill said Monday's announcement that the school's growth in scores was good enough to get it named a reward school was evidence that it is well on its way out of the iZone.
"We're coming off the list," he said. "I'm telling you we are going to be gone from the iZone."
Orchard Knob saw significant growth in math, social studies and science scores over 2012, though reading scores inched up only a few points.
Big Ridge Elementary sees its reward school designation as validation of the hard work of teachers and staff, said Principal Neelie Parker. The school has used data from test scores and other measures to intensely drill down which students need help with which subjects and concepts.
"We try to, so that we can teach the student, not the whole," Parker said. "You can teach to the whole class, but we really try our best to tell which kids need what help. And then we go from there."
State officials celebrated the announcement of reward schools Monday and didn't miss the opportunity to point to their goal of making Tennessee's education system the fastest-improving in the nation.
"Tennessee continues to set the standard in education reform as we maintain our focus on high levels of achievement and continuous growth," Haslam said at a Monday ceremony at Nashville's Percy Priest Elementary. "Our Reward Schools have proven that all students can learn and grow even though their starting lines may be different, a critical part of our effort to prepare our students for the jobs available in the marketplace now and in the future. We are incredibly grateful for the teachers and staff at each of these schools and excited to recognize their efforts on behalf of Tennessee students."
Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249.