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Superintendent Rick Smith

School Board Committees

— Finance Committee: David Testerman will serve as chairman; Donna Horn, Rhonda Thurman and George Ricks will join him.

— Conferences and Consultants Committee: Donna Horn will serve as chairwoman; David Testerman, Rhonda Thurman and George Ricks will join her.

— Technology Committee: Karitsa Mosley will serve as chairwoman; Joe Galloway, Steve Highlander and Greg Martin will join her.

— Policy Committee: Greg Martin will serve as chair; Karitsa Mosley, Joe Galloway, Steve Highlander and David Testerman will join him.

 

The Hamilton County School district scored the lowest possible grade in test score growth, according to data released by the Tennessee Department of Education on Thursday.

Each school district is graded on a scale from 1 to 5, with a 5 being the highest score a district can earn. On all four of the categories — Overall, Literacy, Numeracy, and Literacy and Numeracy — the Hamilton County School district scored a 1 in each.

"Are we pleased by that? Of course we're not pleased by that," Superintendent Rick Smith said at the Hamilton County Board of Education meeting Thursday.

A score of a 1 is described by the department of education as "Least Effective. Schools whose students are making substantially less progress than the Standard for Academic Growth."

Other members of the school board voiced their displeasure Thursday.

"This is really concerning for all of us when we look and see 1," board member George Ricks Sr. said.

"This is extremely distressing to me; you can spin this however you want to," board member Rhonda Thurman said. She was also disturbed by the better performance of other major metropolitan school districts in Tennessee compared to Hamilton County.

Of the counties containing the three Tennessee cities with a bigger population, Knox (containing Knoxville), Davidson (Nashville) and Shelby (Memphis), each earned a score of 5 overall. Knox and Shelby counties earned a 5 in all four categories.

Smith said he was not happy about the scores Hamilton County earned, and they'll work to change those, but added a qualifier. These categories take into account growth, not necessarily overall performance.

"It's important," Smith said after the meeting about growth in test scores. "We want our children to grow every year. But we also have to pay attention to the achievement of our students, as well, which is equally if not more important."

When the overall TCAP scores are examined, Smith is right. Of the 10 categories tested — 3-8 math, 3-8 reading and language, 3-8 science, Algebra I, Algebra II, biology I, English I, English II, English III and chemistry — Knox County had the highest percentage students who scored in the categories of proficient and advanced test scores in every single one of the 10 categories.

Hamilton County had the second highest percentage of students who scored in those categories in eight of the 10 tests. The only categories where Hamilton County didn't finish second were chemistry, where it finished third, and Algebra I, where it finished last.

So for the majority of categories, Hamilton County was second only to Knox County in raw testing scores. But what Thursday's new data showed is the other three major metropolitan counties are progressing at much higher rates than Hamilton County — even Knox County, which has the best test scores by far of the four counties.

Hamilton County is also below average when compared to state averages. In nine of 10 categories, Hamilton County scored below the state average in terms of the percentage of students who scored in proficient and advanced categories. The only category where Hamilton County beat the state average was 3-8 math.

Hamilton County's overall growth scores also were well below many area counties: Bradley scored a 5 overall, McMinn scored a 4, Meigs scored a 3 and Rhea a 3, while Bledsoe, Sequatchie and Marion counties each scored a 1.

Smith said after the meeting he doesn't care what other counties' scores are. To determine success for Hamilton County, he looks at past year's data within Hamilton County.

"When you deal with growth data, you're measuring yourself against yourself," he said.

Data isn't available for how Hamilton County's growth scores were last year. But two years prior, Hamilton County scored 5 Overall, 1 Literacy, 5 Numeracy and 5 Literary and Numeracy.

While Smith may not be concerned with how the other metropolitan counties fare, other members of the board are worried.

"I see that our scores are not advancing," Thurman said during the meeting. "And I think today is one of those days when you almost get sick to your stomach when you see we scored so much lower than our peers across the state."

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at ehoopfer@timesfreepress.com or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.

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