Schools get good report

Friday, November 6, 2009

According to the state "Report Card" released earlier this week, Marshall County schools are generally doing better than systems in the surrounding counties.

All of our nine schools are in "good standing" in relation to the No Child Left Behind mandate.

Only one of our schools, Marshall County High School, has been placed on the "Target" list, and this is only because of its graduation rate, explained interim director Roy Dukes.

"That's a struggle for everybody," said Dukes. The graduation rate in the 2009 report card actually relates to students who graduated in the summer of 2008. The state starts with all the students who matriculated as freshmen, and allows them "four years and a summer" to achieve graduation. MCHS had an 85 percent graduation rate, while the state's goal is 90 percent.

"Just two or three to drop out can hurt it," Dukes said.

In contrast, Bedford County has two schools on the target list and three in "school improvement," while Maury County has seven on the target list and one in school improvement. Giles County has one school targeted, and one in school improvement. Of neighboring counties, only Lincoln County has all of its schools in "good standing."

Academically, Dukes explained, the state has a new, stricter way of figuring the scores, so previous years' numbers can no longer be used for comparison.

The standards have moved upward, with the goal of having our Tennessee students be able to go anywhere in the nation and compete successfully for academic opportunities.

"The teachers are doing a good job," Dukes said. "The students and teachers are working hard."

Elementary students in grades 3 through 8 take the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) tests every spring. None of our elementary schools rated worse than a "C" when their TCAP scores were compared to the state average, and the system as a whole rated "B" in all four categories of the TCAP: mathematics, reading/language arts, social studies, and science. Maury and Giles Counties got all Cs; Bedford County got three Cs and a B; and Lincoln County equaled us with all Bs.

All three County high schools fell behind the state's level in the ACT (American College Testing) composite score, but not by much: the state level was 20.6, and Cornersville scored 19.9, MCHS 19.7, and Forrest 19.4. For comparison, Hampshire Unit School in Maury County, where former director Stan Curtis was principal, achieved an ACT composite score of 22.3. Mount Pleasant High School, also in Maury County, got an ACT composite score of 18.7.

As the new, more rigorous, curriculum is implemented in all the schools, in line with the Tennessee Diploma Project, educators expect to see a drop in scores, to be followed, in a few years, by an improvement.