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Today's lottery to determine Innovation Academy enrollment

June 5th, 2012 11:29 pm by Rick Wagner

BLOUNTVILLE — Today’s the day 160 students will be chosen by lottery from more than 500 to attend the Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee.


Kingsport and Sullivan County each have 40 slots in sixth and seventh grades for the first year of the school, a joint city-county operation to open Aug. 6 in the county’s former Brookside Elementary School in Bloomingdale.


The platform STEM — science, technology engineering and math — school’s governing body met Tuesday afternoon and decided to make the four separate lotteries completely random, choosing not to stratify them slightly to be sure the school’s city and county student populations almost exactly mirror demographics of the two systems overall.


The group also reaffirmed its decision not to give siblings of lottery-winning students any priority.


Winning numbers are to be posted on the school’s Web site, www.ianetn.org, and winners are to be notified by e-mail starting Thursday. They will have about a week to decide whether to accept a slot or not.


Eastman Chemical Co. statistician Arved Harding presented the governing body a synopsis of how the composition of the student body in the grades 6-7 school could look, based on taking 40 students randomly from each system and grade level 10,000 times.


Project manager Brenda Barnicki said 516 students will be in the four lotteries: 140 rising county sixth-graders; 82 rising county seventh-graders; 152 rising city sixth-graders; and 142 rising city seventh-graders.


Barnicki said “one or two” applications came in Sunday but were turned away because the deadline was 5 p.m. Friday.


Under the federal Race to the Top funding funneled through Tennessee and administered by the Battelle Memorial Foundation, the school has no academic or grade requirement for applicants but is supposed to reflect the demographics of the two parent systems.


The two systems got $1 million in start-up money for two years, and East Tennessee State University got $500,000 to be an innovation hub, providing professional development for teachers and sharing the school’s best practices across systems in Northeast Tennessee.


Sullivan County Board of Education President Ron Smith said he supported a random lottery because Harding’s analysis indicated chances are strong the four lotteries would result in populations closely representing the demographics among the 516 that are close to the demographics of the two systems.


“I think we will see the breakdown we are looking for,” Smith said. “Statistics don’t lie. That’s why he doesn’t play the lottery.”


For gender, 51.4 percent of the city sixth-graders and 61 percent of the city seventh-graders were male and the rest female, compared to a system average of 51.5 percent. The city gender breakdown was 53.9 percent males in sixth grade and 55 percent males in seventh grade, compared to a system average of 51 percent.


Minority students were 2.8 percent of the county sixth grade and 2.4 percent of the county seventh grade, compared to a system average of 2.2 percent and range in individual schools of 0.9 percent to 9 percent.


And economically disadvantaged students, those eligible for free or reduced-price meals, were 51.4 percent of county sixth-graders and 34 percent of county seventh-graders, compared to a system average of 54.7 percent and a range among schools of 30 percent to 95 percent.


City economically disadvantaged students were 42.8 percent in sixth grade and 39 percent in seventh grade, compared to a system average of 50.9 percent and a individual schools range of 33 percent to 95 percent.


“I think this first one we need to stay as pure as possible,” Kingsport Board of Education member Cheryl Harvey said.


“If we did too much tinkering (stratifying of the lottery results), it’s hard to answer that question,” Kingsport Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said.


Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said he was fine with going ahead with a random lottery.


The lottery will take place starting at 5 p.m. today in the Eastman Employee Center, 400 S. Wilcox Drive, and be done electronically.


Each of the 516 students has been assigned a four-digit number, preceded by a letter and number: C6 for city sixth-graders, S6 for county sixth-graders, C7 for city seventh-graders, and S7 for county seventh-graders.


Students do not have to be present to win, but those who attend today can go ahead and confirm they will attend by filling out a more detailed form than the original application or bow out to make room for other students to be chosen in a future lottery from among those not chosen the first time.


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