Between grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on educational growth, many administrators and teachers alike have been trying not to fall too far behind.
Multiple schools in the Lebanon Special School District weathered that storm and have been recognized for their achievement by the Tennessee Department of Education.
Sam Houston Elementary School earned reward status following its performance on a year-over-year accountability scale.
Reward status is the top distinction a school can earn in Tennessee and is based on performance of all students on each indicator, as well as performance of historically-underserved student groups across all eligible accountability indicators. A school must have an overall performance rating of 3.1 out of 4 to qualify. Sam Houston scored a 3.6
Beth Allison, the principal at Sam Houston Elementary, credited her teaching staff and students for hard work that helped achieve the distinction.
Scoring breaks down student populations into subgroups, such as race, economics and individual education plans (IEPs) for students with learning disabilities that need accommodations.
“It drilled down into all that to see where the subgroups fall and how much we grow each group of students,” Allison said.
The principal indicated that it has not been easy.
“The past couple of years with COVID, we have seen a huge learning loss with kids,” Allison said. “All schools are dealing with that and trying to get students back on track to where they need to be.”
According to Allison, obtaining those high marks in spite of the forces against it required a group effort.
“We have teachers that meet together weekly in collaborative planning, with their grade levels,” Allison said. “We also meet every other week and drill down to each kid and see what their deficit area is, where they need the help and how we will help them master that skill they are lacking. It’s almost like every student has an individualized plan. It’s not one size fits all like it used to be.”
If a student is lacking in a certain area, the school employs a multi-prong approach.
“We have lots of ways to address it,” Allison said. “One is through response to intervention (RTI), and that is where every student in the school goes for 45 minutes to a specific group and work with a teacher on that specific skill or deficit area. Everybody is assigned a group with a specific skill, and we base the group off whatever the kids need.”
Jones Brummett Elementary also met the qualifier with a 3.9. As the school was only in its first year of existence in 2021-2022, it did not meet other eligibility requirements for the distinction of reward status. Scores for the other five schools in the district showed substantial progress and were closing in on the qualifier for reward school distinction.
Jones Brummett Elementary School principal Becky Siever indicated that as a first-year school, the administration and staff made it their “No. 1 priority” to ensure that all students and families feel accepted and supported.
“We merged students and teachers together from the other four schools in our district, and it was important that we all felt a part of our new school,” Siever said. “At Jones Brummett Elementary, we have a house system, and I feel that contributed to the students feeling comforted at a new school.”
Students and staff are assigned to one of five houses, and points are awarded for student behavior, attendance and academic growth, with a house champion named every nine-week period.
Siever said that her staff has been celebrating the high score, but also pointed out that their work is never done.
“We feel like we will continue to put our students first in all decision-making,” Siever said. “Every day, we ask ourselves, what is best for our students, and that is what shapes our instruction and our culture. We plan to continue doing what we do best, and that is motivating our students to want to come to school and leave feeling supported, accepted and challenged to be the best they can be.”