Hamilton Works to Get Five Schools Off The State "Priority" List

Reported by: Bill Mitchell

Edited by: Harrison Pirtle
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Updated: 8/20/2014 7:30 pm
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF-TV) - Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says its unacceptable for Tennessee to have entire schools
where less than 20% of the students meet the standard.
He's talking about the newest list of Priority schools.
Hamilton county has 5 schools on the priority list, but the mood is upbeat.

Orchard Knob Elementary is one of the 5 schools in Hamilton county on the Priority list.
That means its in the 5% of Tennessee schools with the lowest overall performance.
Principal LaFrederick Thirkill has been here 4 years now and he is convinced that progress depends on more than just classroom work.

LAFREDERICK THIRKILL, PRINCIPAL, ORCHARD KNOB ELEMENTARY "We know that many times, even when you look at the demographics of this particular neighborhood ..they may not have the highest education, they may not have the highest income ..they do have the highest desire for their children."

The list of under achieving schools is released every three years.
And Thirkill says, based on the individual school numbers, the goal is already in site.

LAFREDERICK THIRKILL "With the practices we have in place, with the additional staff we have in place and the opportunity to continue for 3 more years , Bill I have no doubt our school will definitely be off the priority list."

Superintendent Rick Smith tells us there is measurable progress in the 5 priority schools, although they have not reached their goals.

RICK SMITH, SUPERINTENDENT, HAMILTON COUNTY SCHOOLS "It doesn't matter how much improvement you have, Bill, if you're still in that low 5% of the state, you're going to be designated as a priority school."

Smith say the district has reason to believe it can bring those schools into line like it did Howard High School.

RICK SMITH "Howard came off that list 3 years ago, it has not gone back on that list ...and so Howard is an example of the schools that turned that corner, if you will ..and is not identified as a local priority school in the state of Tennessee. "

The Tennessee accountability system identifies three types of schools. Priority, Focus, and Reward schools.
Brainerd High, Orchard Know Middle, and Woodmore elementary join Thirkill's school on the Priority list.
The state will spend 7-million dollars on those under-achieving schools.

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