Over 300 Weakley County seniors walk their walk this Friday for graduation but it is still not clear whether graduation levels this year will be enough to take their high schools off Tennessee’s targeted list.
For the first time, three Weakley County high schools in January lost their ranking of “good standing,” when the State Department of Education released its annual report card. Dresden, Greenfield and Westview high schools slipped to the “targeted” category when their graduation rates last school year did not match the state’s expectations of 90 percent. Westview in 2010, for instance, only graduated 79 percent of the students who began as freshmen.
One of the biggest changes high schools implemented this year to address the graduation rate issue, said Randy Frazier, Weakley County Director of Schools in an interview, was a set of electronic learning tools designed to put more students back on the graduation track. One is an online credit recovery program that had been used to a lesser degree in the past. The other is an online program called e4TN that county students will be using for the first time.
Frazier said the computer programs can help students who have recently moved to the county and are missing credits or just those students who have gotten behind in core subjects and need the added help a computer tutorial can give. He said it is too early to tell how the computer assistance helped students who might be at risk of not graduating.
Individual high schools offer summer school for students failing subjects and Frazier said there is still money in the budget for that to continue, depending on need.
Career and Technical education rates are actually higher in the county than the system averages.In a report to the Weakley County Board of Education Thursday, Marvin Flatt, Career Education Director, told members that career and technical education reached 95 percent last year, ahead of the 89.9 percent state average for those on the career and technical education path.
The board also recognized tenure for several teachers in the system. Starting next year it will be harder for Tennessee teachers to get tenure under new criteria the state has in place under its new Race to the Top program.
All administrators will have to take four days of training this summer, said Frazier, and pass an online test to be certified as evaluators of teacher performance.
Then next year, they will have to observe tenured teachers for two full periods as well as dropping in unscheduled for two more periods. Those new teachers who have not received tenure will get six visits from administrators. In addition, how students perform in each teacher’s class will enter prominently into the calculations. These are tougher teacher accountability criteria across the board.
At the Thursday night meeting, Frazier told Board members that the county recently learned that it will have access to one million dollars more than previously thought from a zero percent loan program offered by the state for energy efficient schools. This will mean that the county could borrow up to $2 million, money, that Frazier said later, will come in handy to upgrade aging heating and air systems at Martin Middle School and Dresden High School.
At the meeting, Frazier had words of praise for the community involvement in cleaning up the recent damage wrought by storms at the Sharon School.
He said the board is still waiting for insurance estimates for repairs needed there.
April 26, the day missed by county schools due to storm damage, will not be made up, the board agreed in a unanimous vote.