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‘We've never performed like that before — growth-wise’

September 9, 2021

 

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT

Rutherford County Schools

 

Last school year was unlike any other and, yet Rutherford County educators rose to the challenge of educating nearly 48,000 students amid a worldwide pandemic.

 

An impressive 41 of 46 schools in the county earned a level three, four or five distinction according to the newly announced student growth data released by the Tennessee Department of Education.

 

Thirty-five of those schools — or 76 percent— earned a level four or five, both of which are above expectations, according to the TDOE rankings. And 30 of those 35 schools “earned the highest possible” distinction available — which is a level five.

 

“We had over 40 percent of the student population out for distance learning, which is unprecedented and created a lot of challenges, but the growth we’re seeing in this report is a testimony of our teachers and educators to empower our students to grasp tomorrow’s opportunities,” Director of Schools Bill Spurlock said. “Even as the pandemic continues, we still need to provide that daily, and our teachers are making those opportunities a reality.”

 

Dr. Jimmy Sullivan, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, also noted a collective rise to the challenges of educating more than 48,000 students.

 

“Growth must occur for all students, period,” Sullivan said of the mantra he and his district-level instruction department continually remind educators throughout the school year.

 

“What I want us to be proud of is that compared to students across the state of Tennessee, our students outperformed expectations and other school districts second to none. They — our teachers, students and our parents — absolutely had that collective effort to show tremendous growth during an extremely trying year. For us to have 30 of our 46 schools outperform everybody across the state … is a huge deal for them.”

 

Student growth is measured year over year by comparing student performance to their own prior performance and is typically not related to a student’s demographics.

 

Growth is critical to ensuring a student’s future academic success.


“Yes, we want as many kids as possible to be on grade level,” Sullivan said, “but what's more important for us and what we talk to our teachers about all the time is making sure that our students grow every single year they're with us in Rutherford County. We may not be able to control how a student enters us — whether that's in kindergarten or seventh grade or high school — but what we can control is how much they grow while they're with us.”

 

Sullivan reemphasized, “There’s no excuses for our kids not to grow.”

 

By comparison to growth data, achievement scores measure a student’s performance at one single point in time and compares that performance to a standard that is highly correlated with their demographic.

 

Achievement scores are critical to a student’s post-secondary opportunities.

 

In addition to the overwhelming growth numbers, Rutherford County outperformed the state in all grades for English language arts, math, science and social studies with a graduation rate of 95.3 percent and an overall districtwide attendance rate of 96 percent.

 

“We've never performed like that before — growth-wise,” Sullivan said, “and that truly goes to our teachers because they're the ones that are heavily ensuring kids leave us better off than they were. And that's ultimately what growth is — are kids in a better place academically than they were when they entered our schools that year? And compared to peers across the state that year, yeah.”

 

“Obviously, we have some challenges as far as achievement is concerned,” Spurlock concluded, “but at the end of the day it is all about growth and it is about each individual student.”

 

The following is an alphabetical list of all 30 level five schools, which indicates significant evidence that the school’s students made more growth than expected.

 

Blackman Elementary

Blackman High

Blackman Middle

Brown’s Chapel Elementary

Buchanan Elementary

Cedar Grove Elementary

Central Magnet

Eagleville

Holloway High

Homer Pittard Campus

John Colemon

LaVergne High

Lavergne Lake Elementary

LaVergne Middle

Oakland High

Rock Springs Middle

Rockvale High

Rockvale Middle

Rocky Fork Middle

Siegel Middle

Smyrna Elementary

Smyrna High

Smyrna Middle

Stewarts Creek Elementary

Stewarts Creek High

Stewarts Creek Middle

Stewartsboro Elementary

Thurman Francis Arts Academy

Whitworth-Buchanan Middle

Wilson Elementary

 

The following is an alphabetical list of the nine Rewards Schools from Rutherford County. A reward school is one that maintained the highest performance level available across multiple accountability measures, per the Tennessee Department of Education.

 

Blackman Elementary

Central Magnet

Eagleville

Homer Pittard Campus

McFadden School of Excellence

Stewarts Creek Elementary

Thurman Francis Arts Academy

Whitworth-Buchanan Middle

Wilson Elementary