The list of 170 Tennessee schools recognized Monday for their growth or performance on standardized tests includes traditional and charter schools from Mountain City to Memphis, with students from across the economic spectrum.
The state Department of Education annually releases its reward list, which comprises the state’s top 5 percent of schools for academic achievement and the top 5 percent for annual growth.
By contrast, the state’s lists of struggling schools are released every three years, with the next installments coming in 2017. Tennessee’s priority list focuses on the bottom 5 percent of schools, and its focus list documents the 10 percent of schools with the largest achievement gaps between groups of students.
This year’s reward list included schools from 59 districts. Ninety-three of the schools serve mostly economically disadvantaged populations, including most of the 35 on the list from Shelby County Schools in Memphis.
Seventy-six of the schools were recognized for overall academic achievement, while 85 schools were recognized for test score growth. Nine schools earned both designations.
The department also recognized 12 districts as exemplary for significantly improving student performance and narrowing achievement gaps, including three of the newly formed districts in Shelby County: Arlington, Bartlett, Germantown and Lakeland, all of which just completed their first year of operation.
“We believe these districts are models for our work across the state. They all face different challenges and have different best practices to share,” McQueen said in a press release.
Due to the state’s new waiver from the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, high-growth schools now can exit the priority and focus lists prior to a new list being announced. Two Memphis schools — Springdale Elementary and City University Boys Preparatory — accomplished that last week when the Tennessee Department of Education released its 2014-15 test scores for districts and schools. Both improved their scores at a faster rate than 85 percent of schools on the list.
Springdale Elementary was the only school statewide to pull itself off of the priority list and straight onto the reward list.
“We recognize that more work is necessary to ensure across-the-board gains in performance and progress, but this is proof that in many cases, we’re trending in the right direction,” Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said in a press release.
You can find additional information about exit criteria for priority and focus schools and the complete list of 2015 reward schools here.