For the first time in at least half a decade, test scores at Chattanooga's Howard School put it in good standing with the Tennessee Department of Education.
The department on Monday released lists of priority and focus schools, both part of the state's new school accountability system, which replaces Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, standards of the past.
Priority schools are those that performed in the bottom 5 percent on state tests, while focus schools are the 10 percent of schools across the state with the largest achievement gaps between racial, socioeconomic or other groups of students.
Howard didn't make either list -- an achievement that didn't go unnoticed locally.
"I'm very excited for Howard," said Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith. "I know that administration and that faculty went about the business of working really hard with kids. They have really improved their performance."
Howard has been flagged by the state for its low achievement levels for more than a decade under AYP.
Its new standing with the state means Howard isn't subject to state intervention and doesn't fall under the jurisdiction of the state-run Achievement School District, a collection of some of the worst-performing public schools in Tennessee.
"This speaks volumes for our teachers and their hard work and our testing coordinators and their hard work," said Howard Principal Paul Smith.
Results released Monday show four Hamilton County focus schools: Brown International Academy, Falling Water Elementary, Lakeside Academy and Tyner Middle Academy. Those schools may have still seen growth on test scores but are cited because of achievement gaps between racial, socioeconomic or other groups of students.
Six schools made it on the priority school list: Brainerd High, Dalewood Middle, Orchard Knob Elementary, Orchard Knob Middle, Woodmore Elementary and the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, a public charter school.
CGLA Director Elaine Swafford, a former Howard principal and Chattanooga State Community College administrator, just took over the charter school this year. She said she wasn't surprised by the school's placement, and her goal this year is to increase classroom rigor and heighten expectations for students.
"Even though it wasn't a surprise to me, I do believe that all children can learn at high levels," she said. "Our job is to figure out how to motivate students to learn."
The new accountability system also includes a grouping of reward schools -- 5 percent of the state's highest-performing schools and another 5 percent of schools with the biggest gains.
The state has not yet released that list.