By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools
Rutherford County Schools has received the highest performance designation available, based on awards announced today by the Tennessee Department of Education.
At noon, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced that Rutherford County Schools has been named an "Exemplary" school district.
"The most significant element of Rutherford County's designation as an 'Exemplary' school district is a recognition of the instructional opportunities being provided to the students and families in our district," Rutherford County Director of Schools Don Odom said. "To receive this label a school district must attain an exemplary academic designation in Achievement Status and Subgroup Status. "
Additionally, the state has recognized nine Rutherford County schools for performing in the top five percent of Tennessee's public schools for achievement or in the top five percent of schools for academic growth and progress -- which is known as "value-added." Schools can be recognized for being in the top five percent for either the performance or the progress categories -- or for both categories. These schools are known as "Reward" schools.
This year's Rutherford County Reward schools are Blackman High School (progress), Central Magnet School (performance and progress), John Colemon Elementary School (progress), Lascassas Elementary School (performance), Homer Pittard Campus School (performance), McFadden School of Excellence (performance), Oakland High School (progress), Riverdale High School (progress), Rockvale Elementary School (performance and progress).
Administrators, teachers, parents, students and other community members in Rutherford County should be proud of the education services provided in Rutherford County, which is often cited as one of the most important factors for business and families when considering moving here, Director Odom said.
"The success of students in Rutherford County Schools is enhanced by a team focused environment on implementing instructional strategies and opportunities based upon the needs of our students and this community," Odom said. "All of our support staff, administrators and teachers understand our mission statement to 'Prepare today's students for tomorrow's opportunities.'
"As the school director, I reflect upon the often stated quote of 'it takes a community to raise a child' and am thankful about how, in Rutherford County, this is embodied by our school board, county commission, the Chamber of Commerce, and others who are providing support on every level."
Schools earn "Reward Performance" status if their one-year success rates for the "All Students" group are in the top five percent of schools in the same pool, excluding schools with subgroup gaps in the top 25 percent for one or more subgroups.
Schools earn "Reward Progress" status if their one-year school composite score for growth places them in the top five percent of schools in the same pool, excluding schools with subgroup gaps in the top 25 percent for one or more subgroups.
Rockvale Elementary School was one of two Rutherford schools to earn the Reward award in both categories. Central Magnet was the other.
"Our leadership team has worked hard to foster a culture that focuses on providing a solid elementary education for our students and ensuring we are always student-centered," said Dayna Nichols, who became Rockvale's principal three years ago. "Our teachers here are an amazing group of people who believe in their community, their students and are proud of their profession."
Nichols added that support from Director Odom and Assistant Superintendent Richard Zago has been key to their success. Parents have also played a vital role by helping reinforce academics at home.
"The whole community is very much a family," Nichols explained, also crediting the work of Jacqueline Williams, Rockvale's assistant principal. ˘˘˘
This is the second time in recent years that the school district as a whole has earned the "Exemplary" award from the Department of Education. The highly coveted, annual designation was last earned in 2011 by Rutherford County Schools.
Today's award announcements are added to a growing list of accolades the school district has received over the past weeks.
The Tennessee Department of Education recently announced that Rutherford County's graduation rate has exceeded 95% for the second consecutive year and the average composite ACT score has reached 20.8. In addition, students taking high school end-of-exams and the TNReady assessments in grades 3-8 have outperformed the state average, even with Tennessee's standards and success thresholds being raised significantly this year.