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Exceeding State Averages

posted Oct 3, 2016, 5:37 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 5:38 AM ]
William Blount High School is turning heads with its ACT scores. The Tennessee Department of Education recently recognized William Blount "for significantly improving ACT performance for the past five years" at the LEAD Conference.

Four additional schools — Daniel Boone High School, Forrest School, Franklin High School and Gallatin High School received this recognition. The LEAD conference, which was held Oct. 27-29 at Music City Center in Nashville, is aimed at school-and system-level administrators. State officials plan to use each school's experiences to shape planning and resource development across the state. Principal Rob Clark presented the state award to staff at Thursday's faculty meeting. He praised educators for their hard work, noting they'd nearly doubled the percentage of students who met all four college-readiness benchmarks — 18 out of 36 in English, 22 in math ,21 in reading and 24 in science — in three years. The ACT is a nationally recognized measure of college readiness. If students meet benchmarks on the standardized test, they are considered college-ready, meaning they could take a college-level course in that subject area and earn at least a C.

In 2011, William Blount High School had 11 percent of its students meet all four benchmarks. Administrators including Clark, who was in his first year as principal — identified the ACT as an area of emphasis and partnered with teachers to directly address this measure of student achievement. "Our goal is to prepare kids for what comes next," Clark said, in an interview with The Daily Times. "As a staff,we asked ourselves, 'How can we help our demographic of students excel at the next level?' We keep coming back to the ACT. Increased performance on this test helps everybody whether they pursue a postsecondary education, both two-year and four-year institutions, or enter the work force. "We've increased the number of AP (Advanced Placement) courses we offer students from one course in my first year to eight courses this year. AP classes automatically increase rigor. That's what we want. We want our students to be challenged. "In November 2013, Blount County Schools was named to the College Board's Fourth Annual AP District Honor Roll. The College Board recognized five school districts in Tennessee, includng Maryville City Schools.

The AP District Honor Roll recognizes school districts for increasing access to AP course work while simultaneously maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP Exams. Reaching these goals indicates that the district is successfully identifying motivated, academically prepared students who are likely to benefit from rigorous AP course work. In addition to these courses, William Blount High School implemented an ACT prep class that serves about 50 percent of its students. Three educators —one English, one math and one science — teach the class, providing nine weeks of English instruction, 4½ weeks of math instruction and 4½ weeks of science instruction. Every teacher has also embraced instructional strategies that incorporate skills, such as higher-order thinking and problem solving, which will be tested on the ACT, Clark said. "Whether it's our core areas or CTE (career and technical education), everybody has made it a point of emphasis. They see the importance of these skills and this test. They differentiate instruction and find ways to engage each student in their learning."

As a result of these efforts, William Blount High School has made significant gains. In 2012, William Blount had 17 percent of its students meet all four benchmarks.
Educators have continued to emphasize this area, boosting this measure to 21 percent in 2013 and 2014. In 2014, the school exceeded state averages in all benchmarks, exceeded the national average in English and neared national averages in other areas. It had students .meet the English benchmark; students meet the math benchmark; students meet the reading benchmark; students meet the science benchmark. In Tennessee, 59 percent of students met college-ready benchmarks in English, 30 percent in math, 37 percent in reading, 28 percent in science, and 19 percent met all four benchmarks. Nationwide, 64 percent of students met college-ready bench-marks in English, 43 percent in math, 44 percent in reading, 37 percent in science, and 26 percent met all four benchmarks. While emphasizing college-readiness benchmarks, teachers have also worked to boost composite scores. As a result, William Blount's average composite score has steadily increased in the past three years: 20.41 in 2012, 20.72 in 2013 and 21.18 in 2014. Each result is higher than predicted by the state Department of Education's model: 20.06 in 2012, 20.01 in 2013 and 20.49 in 2014. For the past three years, William Blount's growth measure —0.57 — is a perfect 5.  "It's encouraging to look back and see the progress we've made," Clark said. "We're certainly not content with it, though. We'll continue to push these scores even higher. I'd love to see us compete with the top-performing schools in our state."