2012 State Report Card: DeKalb County Schools Show Gains

November 5, 2012
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby

DeKalb County schools, county wide, made Value Added gains in math and science, improved in individual year ACT scores, and maintained grades from last year in other Achievement and Value Added subject areas according to the 2012 Report Card on Schools.

The Tennessee Department of Education Thursday released complete results from the 2012 state Report Card. The report includes district- and school-level data on a variety of indicators, from student achievement and growth on standardized tests, to attendance and graduation.

The 2012 Report Card is difficult to compare to previous years in some areas because the new report reflects the first year of the state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act. Tennessee now operates under a new accountability system, which has been approved by the federal government.

"We're real proud of our report card," said Director of Schools Mark Willoughby in an interview with WJLE last week. "A lot of major accomplishments have been made this year. The rigor has really increased tremendously in the last two years. We have gone up a letter grade in several areas. When you can do that with the rigor that's demanded and required with our standards in the state of Tennessee, you've accomplished a lot. Our students have accomplished much this last year and our report card shows that," he said.

DeKalb County also received recognition from the state department for closing the gaps among Limited English Proficient students in Reading and Language Arts by eighteen percent, according to Dr. Danielle Collins, Federal Programs Supervisor "That's a huge gain for one year. Its because of the great commitment from our teachers. They just do amazing work daily and that is exceptional," she said.

Director Willoughby; Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for Grades 7-12; Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for pre-K through 6th grade; and Lisa Bell, Data Analysis Leader Gina Arnold, Supervisor of Special Education, and Dr. Danielle Collins, Federal Programs Supervisor met with WJLE last week to explain the data.

The following is a summary of the DeKalb County School System Report Card for 2012 from the Tennessee Department of Education:

The graduation rate of 93.5% is down from 94.2% in 2011 but it is above the state goal of 90% and has been for several years
Attendance for K-8 was 95.8%, the same as 2011
Promotion Rate for K-8 was 99%, slightly below the 99.7% in 2011
Attendance at DCHS was 96.9%, up from 95.2% last year

"We're very pleased with the efforts of each of the schools as well as parents and the students, said Gina Arnold, Supervisor of Special Education, referring to the high rate of attendance. "Everybody is making a conscious effort to be in school and stay the full day, not leave early and not come in late. That's just a fabulous attendance rate. A lot of the schools do initiatives to get the kids there 100% or as close to 100% of the time as possible. They do rewards for having perfect attendance and our parents really do help with that as well. We're pleased that they're (students) there for that good percentage of time," said Arnold.

Achievement continued to earn "B"s countywide in all academic 3-8 TCAP tested grades, the same as last year, as did the state for this year. In grades 3-8, the county received ALL "B"s for Academic Achievement in the areas of Math; Reading/Language Arts; Social Studies, and Science.

Value-Added countywide improved in Math from a "C" to a "B". Science also improved from a "D" to a "C". Reading maintained a "B" and Social Studies a "C". Tennessee Value Added Assessment Scores (TVAAS) measures academic growth over a three year period.

Achievement is reported on the report card for Writing. Students across the county received an "A" in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades for Writing, the same as last year, as did the state.

"Overall, countywide a lot of things we put into place to help improve the learning in math have really come out this year through the achievement and the value added at each of the schools," said Lisa Bell, Data Analysis Leader. "The teachers are trying to implement Common Core in so many different strategies to get the students to be much more active learners. I'm really excited about things I see happening in the classroom," said Bell.

The ACT individual year in 2012 shows that DeKalb County students' average scores increased in every area, English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning from 2011, but are still below the state. Three year averages are also down in each subject area.

"I am very pleased with the progress DeKalb County Schools have made," said Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for 7th-12th grades."I am very proud of the teachers. It's not been too long since I was in the classroom (as a teacher) and I realize the pressures of the classroom (for teachers today). The students have really met the challenges of the rigorous material that we have. I am so pleased with the ACT scores being up in all areas of English, Math, Reading, and Science for 2012. That's a big accomplishment because we do test every child now in the eleventh grade and we're one of seven states that do that. We do incentives for those students (taking the ACT). Even if they're not planning on going to college, they do have to take that ACT so we're trying incentives. I'd like to also thank the parents for encouraging the students," said Cripps.

Value-Added for the high school in the area of Biology I and English I, II, and III earned a status of NDD. This means that the students met their predicted scores to have an acceptable year's growth. Algebra I and II had below average growth for the year.

Although more than 95% of DeKalb County students were proficient on the US History End of Course state test, the growth for Value-Added was below average. This is a common trend across the state.

DeKalb Middle School:
In Achievement, DeKalb Middle School continued to receive "B"s in Social Studies and Science. The school also maintained a "C" in Reading. Math improved from a "C" to a "B". The state had All "B"s. For Value-Added, DeKalb Middle School Math improved from a "C" to an "A" while all other areas received a "D".

DeKalb West School:
In Achievement, DeKalb West School continued to score above the state in every academic area receiving "A"s in Reading, Social Studies, and Science. Math received a "B". The state had All "B"s. For Value-Added, DeKalb West School improved in academic areas from last year. Math improved from a "D" to a "C" and Social Studies improved from a "C" to a "B". Reading maintained an "A" and Science a "B".

Northside Elementary School:
In Achievement, Northside Elementary School maintained "B"s in Social Studies and Science. Reading improved from a "C" to a "B" and Math maintained a "C" For Value-Added, Northside Elementary maintained "A"s in Reading and Social Studies. Math improved from a "D" to a "B" and Science improved from a "C" to a "B".

Smithville Elementary School has the same report card and standing as Northside Elementary since it is a feeder school to Northside.

"I think the report card is absolutely fantastic," said Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for pre-k to 6th grade. " I'm excited. I think that we have made great strides over the last year. I see that with the new standards, we're looking at even kindergarten students now being college and career ready. That's a big change for us but we are now looking at the broader picture. I think our kids are learning more and more each day as a result. Our teachers are working hard and I think they're doing a great job too," said Burklow.

"I want to brag on all of our employees," said Willougbby. "They have worked really hard. The things that were required three years ago versus the things that are required now for employees and for students are not the same. So much more is being required. Accountability is so much higher. Standards have changed so much and are much more rigorous than what they used to be. Its difficult but it's a good thing for our kids. That's the business we're in, doing what's best for children. We want our children to be prepared when they graduate from DeKalb County schools. We think we're doing a good job. Teachers are just doing an outstanding job and working hard. The demands that are put upon educators are more than they have ever been. Our children who are graduating from schools today are more prepared for the future than they have ever been. I just appreciate what everybody is doing," said Willloughby.

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