KINGSPORT — The city’s public school system may not have won the 2013 SCORE prize, but local school and SCORE officials said the system is definitely headed in the right direction with improvements in student achievement.
Local and state officials, including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, came together Thursday night to honor Kingsport City Schools for being chosen one of three finalists statewide for the prize recognizing one-year strides in student achievement.
Drew Jacobs, director of research and data for SCORE, showed the video KSC used in the competition before presenting the Board of Education with a finalist banner.
“Kingsport City Schools sets high expectations for all students,” Jacobs said, adding that it moves to use resources to prepare students for a bright future through parental engagement, leadership, project-based, hands-on learning, teachers given tools including collaborative time and using data to drive instruction.
“You are constantly researching best practices,” Jacobs said.
In a political career spanning 24 years so far, Ramsey said his best day was when he got a call that the state’s 2013 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores were the most improved in the nation and the most improved in one year in the history of NAEP, with the state moving from about 45th to 32nd in national rankings in one year.
Ramsey predicted more progress at the higher education level with Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed “Tennessee Promise” program, which would give every Tennessee high school graduate two years free at a community college or technical school.
He also divulged to the group that he has a mixed marriage: he is a Sullivan Central High School graduate from Blountville, while his wife, the former Sindy Parker, is a Dobyns-Bennett High graduate from Kingsport. He said that kind of “friendly rivalry” is what helps make area schools better.
State School Board member Fielding Rolston and Etta Clark, a member of SCORE, also attended, as did Mayor Dennis Phillips and some members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and other city staff.
Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said that when he was in Nashville last month for the release of SCORE’s State of Education report, he looked at the recommendations and thought they looked an awful lot like the KCS strategic plan.
The report noted five priorities: rigorous standards and assessment, having effective leadership development, giving students access to great teachers, using technology to improve teaching and learning and supporting students from kindergarten to a career.
The report also mentioned KCS four times in examples of good practices, which KCS Chief Information Officer Andy True said showed a correlation that validates KCS practices and programs, from grooming potential future principals to having central office personnel assigned to two schools, having iPads for every teacher and a plan to have iPads for all students in grades 3-12 in about four years.
With many groups working to attack or take away funding from public education via vouchers or charter schools, Ailshie said he is glad SCORE is a steady proponent of improving public education for all Tennesseans.
Ramsey, however, in his earlier remarks said that a move to allow education vouchers and make it easier for charter schools to start in the state “are never going to apply to Northeast Tennessee” because folks here are more or less happy with their public schools. That is not true in other areas of the state, he said.