Northside Elementary Almost Makes List of "Reward Schools"

November 21, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Commissioner Kevin Huffman
Northside Elementary School

Northside Elementary School has received special recognition by the state department of education for being on the verge of becoming a "Reward School" for progress in student achievement.

In accordance with Tennessee's new accountability system, designed through the state's waiver from No Child Left Behind, the Tennessee Department of Education names Reward, Priority and Focus schools.

Reward Schools are the top 5 percent of schools in the state for performance—as measured by overall student achievement levels—and the top 5 percent for year-over-year progress—as measured by schoolwide value-added data. These 10 percent of schools receive recognition for their success under the accountability system.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said he and Northside Principal Gayle Redmon received a letter of congratulations on November 4 from Kevin Huffman, the State Commissioner of Education. "The letter said Northside Elementary was on the cusp of being a reward school. That meant it didn't get any money but Northside Elementary was in the top 5 percent of schools in achievement growth from last year's report card. We are very happy with that. Everyone at Northside was tickled to get that news," said Willoughby

The letter from Commissioner Huffman states " As you know, under Tennessee's waiver from No Child Left Behind, the state's accountability system focuses on two main objectives for schools and districts: improving overall student achievement and closing achievement gaps by ensuring even faster progress for those groups of students who are furthest behind."

"Part of our new accountability system identifies the top five percent of schools in performance and the top five percent of schools in progress as Reward Schools. The identification of Reward Schools is intended to provide district and school leaders with the opportunity to learn from the successes of other high performing schools. Reward Schools also are eligible for grant funds and additional opportunities and recognition."

"Since the state does not publish a list of rankings of all schools, we believe it is important to let Directors and Principals know if schools are close to achieving a high level of recognition. Northside Elementary was on the cusp of being identified as a Reward school based on progress last school year. In fact, your school progress was within the threshold of those schools identified as Reward, but was excluded under our federal waiver rules because of achievement gaps larger than the state median in any sub-group area and achievement gaps that widened between 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years."

"The Reward list is a relative list, meaning that it is determined by your progress relative to other schools. Given the hard work across the state and the anticipated rate of growth in many schools, we know there will be significant competition to be identified on the Reward list next year. Your school is on the cusp of achieving this recognition and we wanted to let you know how close you are, and encourage you in your work this year."

"Thank you for the work that you and your staff members are taking on in partnership with students and families toward the goal of making Tennessee the fastest improving state in the nation," wrote Commissioner Huffman.

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