Seven of 79 Tennessee schools flagged for poor academic performance in 2018 dropped off the state’s “priority list” of bottom-performing schools this year when the Tennessee Department of Education unveiled its 2020-21 school accountability lists Tuesday.
Three of the exiting schools are in Memphis, the epicenter of the state’s school improvement work for the last decade.
Sheffield Elementary, part of Shelby County Schools, and two charter schools in the state-run Achievement School District, Libertas and Cornerstone Prep Denver Campus, moved off of the priority list of schools that rank academically in the state’s bottom 5%.
The list is usually met with trepidation from school leaders of struggling schools. But because the legislature voted in January to remove any potentially negative consequences from test scores during a second pandemic year, schools can’t be added — only removed.
Priority status makes schools eligible for the state’s most intense interventions, including possible takeover by the Achievement School District, or ASD, which has mostly assigned struggling schools to charter networks since its launch in 2012.
Priority schools could come off of the list this year if their test scores were good enough. Those schools had to rank in the state’s 15th percentile for the recent academic year or the state’s 10th percentile for two straight testing years. They also could exit by earning one of two top designations for academic growth in math and reading for two straight years.
“These schools have shown how Tennessee districts and schools can overcome a variety of challenges including a global pandemic that impacted the past several months, including the majority of the 2020-21 school year,” Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said in a statement.
Tennessee’s first pandemic test scores, released last month, showed a proficiency decline of 5 percentage points since 2019, the last time that public school students took standardized tests under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP.
But while the state’s overall scores went down, some schools did well — or well enough to improve their state proficiency ranking by percentile. Others showed a high level of growth from 2019 to 2021 under the state’s accountability model known as TVAAS, which is short for the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.
Libertas School in Memphis was able to leave the priority list because of its performance in both proficiency and growth. The former Brookemeade Elementary School was in the state’s bottom 1% when the ASD took it over in 2015 from Shelby County Schools. Now called Libertas, the Montessori school reached the state’s 25th percentile in proficiency on the most recent tests. Libertas, which serves 485 students from the Memphis Frayser community, also ranked at the top level for student growth.
“What this means is that children in marginalized neighborhoods like Frayser can, in fact, achieve at incredibly high levels and grow extraordinarily to achieve their dreams,” said Bob Nardo, the school’s founder.
Sheffield Elementary, which is part of Shelby County Schools Innovation Zone turnaround program, exited the priority list by exceeding the 10th percentile in proficiency for two consecutive testing years.
Tennessee released its first list of 83 priority schools in 2012, with 69 of those in Memphis. Only 43 Memphis schools made the state’s last priority list in 2018, which added more schools in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jackson. High schools with a graduation rate of less than 67% also could be placed on priority status.
Pending new state or federal accountability waivers or actions, Tennessee’s next priority list is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2022, following state testing next spring.
Exits from this year’s list include two schools in Chattanooga, one in Nashville, and one in Campbell County.
Schools Exiting the Priority and Comprehensive Support and Improvement List
|Campbell County||Jellico Elementary|
|Davidson County||Rosebank Elementary|
|Hamilton County||Clifton Hills Elementary|
|Hamilton County||Woodmore Elementary|
|Shelby County||Sheffield Elementary|
|Achievement School District||Libertas School|
|Achievement School District||Cornerstone Prep Denver Campus|
In response to a 2015 federal education law, Tennessee added two other designations aimed at holding schools accountable. Both lists also had exits this year.
State officials said 108 of 145 schools from 57 districts met the criteria to move off of the state’s list of schools needing targeted support and resources to close achievement gaps among student groups based on race, poverty, disabilities, and language.
Schools Exiting the Targeted Support and Improvement List
|Anderson County||Clinton Middle School|
|Bedford County||Harris Middle School|
|Bedford County||South Side Elementary|
|Benton County||Big Sandy School|
|Bledsoe County||Cecil B Rigsby Elementary|
|Blount County||Eagleton Middle School|
|Blount County||Heritage Middle School|
|Bradley County||Taylor Elementary School|
|Cannon County||West Side Elementary|
|Huntingdon Special School District||Huntingdon Primary|
|Carter County||Hampton High School|
|Claiborne County||Ellen Myers Primary|
|Clay County||Celina K-8|
|Cocke County||Centerview Elementary|
|Cocke County||Cosby Elementary|
|Cocke County||Cosby High School|
|Cocke County||Northwest Elementary|
|Cocke County||Parrottsville Elementary|
|Manchester||Westwood Middle School|
|Tullahoma||Bel Aire Elementary|
|Tullahoma||West Middle School|
|Davidson County||Glencliff High School|
|Davidson County||Haywood Elementary|
|Davidson County||Hull-Jackson Elementary|
|Davidson County||Inglewood Elementary|
|Davidson County||Jones Elementary|
|Davidson County||Knowledge Academy|
|DeKalb County||Northside Elementary|
|Humboldt City Schools||Humboldt Junior/Senior High School|
|Humboldt City Schools||East Elementary School|
|Trenton||Trenton Middle School|
|Giles County||Richland Elementary|
|Greene County||Mosheim Elementary|
|Greeneville||C Hal Henard Elementary|
|Hamblen County||Meadowview Middle School|
|Hamilton County||Brown Middle School|
|Hamilton County||Ooltewah Middle School|
|Hardin County||Parris South Elementary|
|Hawkins County||Church Hill Intermediate School|
|Hawkins County||Hawkins Elementary|
|Hawkins County||Rogersville Middle School|
|Henry County||Henry Elementary|
|Hickman County||Centerville Intermediate School|
|Houston County||Erin Elementary|
|Houston County||Houston Co Middle School|
|Jackson County||Jackson County Middle School|
|Jefferson County||Jefferson Middle School|
|Knox County||Belle Morris Elementary|
|Knox County||Cedar Bluff Elementary|
|Knox County||Cedar Bluff Middle School|
|Knox County||Chilhowee Intermediate|
|Knox County||A L Lotts Elementary|
|Knox County||Inskip Elementary|
|Knox County||Karns Elementary|
|Knox County||Norwood Elementary|
|Knox County||West Haven Elementary|
|Knox County||Emerald Academy|
|Lawrence County||E O Coffman Middle School|
|Lewis County||Lewis Co High School|
|Fayetteville||Fayetteville High School|
|Madison County||Jackson Central-Merry Early College High|
|Marion County||Monteagle Elementary|
|Marion County||South Pittsburg Elementary|
|Marion County||Whitwell Middle School|
|Marshall County||Lewisburg Middle School|
|Maury County||Highland Park Elementary|
|Maury County||Mt. Pleasant Middle Visual Perform. Arts|
|Maury County||Spring Hill Middle School|
|Montgomery County||Pisgah Elementary|
|Morgan County||Petros Joyner Elementary|
|Obion County||Ridgemont Elementary|
|Union City||Union City Elementary School|
|Perry County||Linden Elementary|
|Perry County||Linden Middle School|
|Pickett County||Pickett County Elementary|
|Putnam County||Jere Whitson Elementary|
|Putnam County||Avery Trace Middle School|
|Roane County||Harriman Middle School|
|Rutherford County||Blackman High School|
|Rutherford County||Whitworth-Buchanan Middle School|
|Rutherford County||Riverdale High School|
|Rutherford County||Smyrna High School|
|Sequatchie County||Sequatchie Co Middle School|
|Sequatchie County||Griffith Elementary|
|Sevier County||Northview Intermediate School|
|Sevier County||Pigeon Forge Primary|
|Sevier County||Sevierville Middle School|
|Shelby County||Highland Oaks Middle|
|Shelby County||Chimneyrock Elementary School|
|Shelby County||William Herbert Brewster Elementary School|
|Shelby County||Egypt Elementary|
|Shelby County||Gardenview Elementary|
|Shelby County||Hickory Ridge Middle|
|Shelby County||Oakhaven Elementary|
|Shelby County||Shady Grove Elementary|
|Shelby County||Treadwell Elementary|
|Shelby County||Whitehaven Elementary|
|Shelby County||Winridge Elementary|
|Shelby County||Southern Avenue Charter School Of Academic Excellence Creat|
|Sullivan County||Colonial Heights Middle|
|Kingsport||Ross N. Robinson Middle School|
|Union County||Maynardville Elementary|
|Union County||Paulette Elementary School|
|Warren County||Dibrell Elementary|
|Warren County||Bobby Ray Memorial|
|Washington County||South Central Elementary|
|Franklin SSD||Freedom Middle School|
|Wilson County||Watertown Middle School|
Federal law also requires Tennessee to use test data to identify schools needing additional support to improve the performance of similar student groups based on federal criteria. The following 18 schools from 12 districts met criteria to leave that list.
Schools Exiting the Additional Targeted Support and Improvement List
|Bledsoe County||Bledsoe County Middle School|
|Coffee County||Coffee County Middle School|
|Davidson County||John Overton High|
|Davidson County||Margaret Allen Middle|
|Davidson County||Knowledge Academies High School|
|Davidson County||RePublic High School|
|Hancock County||Hancock County Elementary|
|Hickman County||East Hickman Middle School|
|McMinn County||Niota Elementary|
|Madison County||North Parkway Middle School|
|Montgomery County||Kenwood Middle|
|Robertson County||Springfield High School|
|Shelby County||Craigmont High|
|Shelby County||Kingsbury High|
|Shelby County||Overton High|
|Shelby County||Snowden Elementary/Middle|
|Sumner County||Joe Shafer Middle School|
|Unicoi County||Unicoi Co Middle School|
The department is scheduled to publish test results online for all Tennessee schools on the state report card by late September.
Chalkbeat data journalist Annie Fu contributed to this report.