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Dr. Linda Cash, the new director of schools for Bradley County, answers questions posed by the school board during a public interview on Monday evening. Scott Bennett, attorney for the school system, listens.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County Schools met 10 out of 10 achievement targets set by the Tennessee Department of Education for grades 3-12 in the 2014-2015 school year.

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In a released statement, Bradley County education officials addressed test scores in math, reading and other subjects, coinciding with the state's release of school district achievement scores this week.

"We believe that all children can learn, and our mission is to prepare students to be college- and career-ready upon graduation," said Dr. Linda Cash, director of Bradley County Schools, who took office in June. Cash replaces Johnny McDaniel, who held the director post for eight years but accepted a buyout agreement from a divided school board in February.

Angie Gill, system testing coordinator and data analyst for Bradley County Schools, praised the district's math achievements, which she said exceeded goals for grades 3-8 math, Algebra II, and graduation rate.

"This was a major focus for our system and our teachers have worked hard, and we will continue to do so as we strive for increased student learning," Gill said.

Algebra II scores "saw an amazing growth" of 16.2 percentage points to 59.5 percent scoring proficient and advanced, which is above the 54.2 percent state average, Cash said.

In April, an element of the school system's math strategy turned into a point of contention among school board members when they discussed continued funding for a district-level math coordinator during the 2015-2016 budget process.

The math coordinator "was a much needed position" whose responsibilities include analyzing student data with all teachers, helping with instructional coach planning and assisting with staff development, said Terri Murray, director of federal programs, during those discussions.

The position was created last year with federal Race to The Top funds with the idea of moving it to the regular budget going forward, she said.

Board member Chris Turner cited concerns with using grant money to create positions that later left the school system "on the hook for continuing those positions."

Board member Rodney Dillard expressed support for the district-level math coordinator and called for letting the next school director evaluate the position's value.

In May, the board voted 7-0 to approve the school system's $69.6 million budget, which included retention of the position.

Achievement levels for reading in grades 3-8 remained unchanged from last year, with 52.4 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced, while third-grade proficient and advanced achievement was 48.7 percent, representing an increase of 2.2 percent, Cash said.

Elementary Supervisor Sheena Newman announced plans to rollout "Read 20," an initiative intended to support the "ultimate goal" of having students on grade level reading by the end of third grade.

Other counties in southeast Tennessee also reported their findings, with some outliers and mixed results.

The individual categories varied greatly from county to county, and even sometimes within each county. For instance, 73.8 percent of Bledsoe County high-schoolers scored in the proficient or advanced category in Algebra II, which is 19.6 points better than the state average.

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However, only 19.5 percent of Bledsoe County high-schoolers scored in the "proficient" or "advanced" category in chemistry — 24.7 points below the state average.

Data from grades 3-12 was looked at. Of the counties examined by the Times Free Press — McMinn, Rhea, Sequatchie, Marion, Bledsoe and Grundy — only two averaged a higher percentage of students who scored in the proficient or advanced categories than the state average.

Those were Rhea County, which averaged 3.62 percentage points more in the proficient or advanced categories than the state average, and McMinn, with 0.49 percentage points more.

Grundy County schools did the worst and averaged 11.4 percentage points less in the proficient or advanced categories than the state average. Following it was Sequatchie County with an average of 4.66 percentage points less, Bledsoe County with an average of 4.54 percentage points less and Marion County with an average of 2.6 percentage points less.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

Staff writer Evan Hoopfer contributed to this story.

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