Hamilton County Schools' test scores maintain pre-pandemic academic growth

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / "Hamilton County Schools" is seen on a new school bus at the Hamilton County Department of Education in 2019 in Chattanooga.

A majority of Hamilton County students met or exceeded the state's growth standards across four areas for the 2020-21 school year, according to new Tennessee Value Added Assessment System (TVAAS) data released Thursday.

Out of 79 schools, 67 (85%) met or exceeded state growth standards for the 2020-21 school year.

TVAAS measures academic growth on a scale of 1-5, with Level 1 being below expectations, Level 3 meeting state growth standards, and Levels 4 and 5 exceeding expectations. For the 2020-21 year, the district scored a Level 5 on literacy, numeracy, the combined areas of literacy and numeracy, as well as a district-wide composite score that includes all tested areas across all grade levels.

The 2018-19 school year marked a shift toward Level 5 rankings that have continued into this year, said Shannon Moody, director of accountability and research for the district.

"What we're seeing here in 2021 is a continued pattern of improvement, that we're able to sustain this level of result even with what our teachers and our schools experienced this past year, sustaining that high level of achievement in comparison to peers and really improving that learning trajectory for what equates to thousands of kids across our districts and making sure they're continually outpacing others across the state at this time," Moody said.

Schools designated as "priority schools" in Tennessee perform in the bottom 5% of the state, while reward schools perform at the highest level.

Two district schools, Clifton Hills Elementary School and Woodmore Elementary School, exited priority status in the 2020-21 school year, while 34 total schools were designated reward status and/or Level 5 schools.

Reward schools

— Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts— Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences - LowerSource: Hamilton County Schools

For the 2020-21 school year, teachers also saw improved performances compared to prior years. Eighty-two percent of teachers met or exceeded the state's growth measure compared to 80% in the 2018-19 school year and 67% the year before that.

Interim superintendent Nakia Towns told the Times Free Press on Wednesday that teacher effectiveness became another area for improvement when she and former superintendent Bryan Johnson came on board.

"Across the board, our growth rates in Hamilton County schools look significantly different, and I think it's important to note that this isn't because we ran off all our teachers. We've increased our retention rate," Towns said.

Schools with both Level 5 and reward designations

— Allen Elementary School— Alpine Crest Elementary— Apison Elementary School— Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts— Hamilton County Collegiate High School at Chattanooga State— Lookout Mountain School— Middle Valley Elementary School— Ooltewah Elementary School— STEM School Chattanooga— Thrasher Elementary— Wallace A. Smith Elementary SchoolSource: Hamilton County Schools

"These are many of the same educators who were here in 2016 that we've been able to support with the right resources and give the right tools and the right types of professional development and align with our benchmark data so that teachers are able to support children to high levels of outcome and growth."

The district operates several teacher recruitment programs in partnership with community organizations to bring more teachers to the district. At the statewide level, the Tennessee Department of Education awarded in June a $100,000 grant to Lipscomb University for the Grow Your Own program, one of Hamilton County Schools' partners in the program, to further train and certify teachers to work in the district.

Locally, the Project Inspire program, backed by the Public Education Foundation, partners teaching residents with current Hamilton County Schools teachers in a 14-monthlong residency. Residents earn master's degrees and teacher licensure before committing to teach in a high-need Hamilton County school for four years.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

Level 5 schools

— Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy— Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences - Upper— Clifton Hills Elementary School— Daisy Elementary School— DuPont Elementary School— East Hamilton High School— East Lake Academy— East Ridge Elementary School— East Ridge High School— Eastside Elementary School— Hixson High School— Hunter Middle School— Loftis Middle School— Nolan Elementary School— Red Bank High School— Rivermont Elementary School— Sale Creek Middle/High School— Tyner Academy— Tyner Middle Academy— Wolftever Creek Elementary School— Woodmore Elementary SchoolSource: Hamilton County Schools