By Heather Mullinix
In a state recently recognized as a top performer in the nation for improving student learning, Frank P. Brown Elementary School in Cumberland County was named the top middle school in the state for dramatically improving student achievement.
Tuesday, representatives of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) visited the school, bringing with them some special gifts — a banner recognizing the school's achievement and a check for $10,000.
"We're going to use the money to finish outfitting our classrooms with interactive technology," said Prinipcal Christie Thompson. That was the wish of students and teachers, who voted to provide interactive boards and projectors.
The school learned it was the state winner at a special ceremoney Oct. 28. Tuesday, the student body was able to celebrate their success. A special community celebration is set for Monday, Nov. 25, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Jaime Woodson, president and CEO of SCORE, told the students, "Your leaders have done an important thing. They set high expectations for you. And they set those high goals because they know you are more than capable of meeting those goals."
The school was chosen for the award based on its three-year performance on state testing that measures knowledge growth of students as well as academic achievement. Brown posted particularly high performance in science, with a three-year average of 84 students proficient or advanced, compared to the state average of 60 percent.
It's a long way from where the school once stood according to testing data, which had the school near the bottom of all schools in the state for growth and achievement. The school instituted intervention programs, using before, after and during school assistance to help students master skills they were having difficulty with. The community aided with volunteers and mentors. There was one-on-one help available for students. And teachers looked beyond the test scores.
"I often will see potential that isn't shown in the test scores," said teacher Susan Serleth in a video for the SCORE prize. She explained she would survey her students to determine how they were best able to learn and then teach each student according to those answers.
Student Xavier Findley said on the video, "If you don't understand something, they keep helping you until you do."
SCORE evaluates all schools in the state based on data from Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test data to identify three finalists at the elementary, middle school, high school and district level. Brown was placed in the middle school category because it serves grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
After finalists are selected, a selection committee of educators and community partners conducts a site visit, which includes thorough review of policies and procedures, talking with students, teachers and parents and even evaluating the facility for it's cleanliness and upkeep.
SCORE noted the school leadership and all the teachers help students accountable for their learning, with a "no excuses" approach to education. The faculty and staff also use data to drive their instruction and "have highly engaging classrooms where all students are supported to reach their full potential."