A handful of East Tennessee schools are making the grade with the Tennessee Department of Education.
Leaders released a list of Reward Schools Monday. It represents the top five percent of Tennessee's schools with the highest achievement and top five percent in overall growth. The measure is part of the new classification system implemented with Tennessee's federal "No Child Left Behind" waiver.
Governor Bill Haslam joined Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and others at an elementary school in Brentwood to reveal the list.
"Thank you. Thank you, thank you for working hard, thanks for listening to the teachers, and thank you for showing that Tennessee students can be as great as students anywhere else," Haslam said to students in the crowd.
Knox County has ten schools on the list, the most of any system in East Tennessee. It includes Bearden, Carter, Corryton, Gap Creek, Ritta, Sequoyah, and Shannondale Elementary Schools, along with Whittle Springs and South Doyle Middle Schools and Powell High School.
District leaders gathered at South Doyle Middle School for the announcement. Principal Beth Blevins said seeing her school's name brought tears to her eyes.
"For the first time I didn't have to go to sleep thinking 'Will they see the benefits for all the efforts they put in?' That was very validating," she said. "We're going to stay on top. We're going to continue to be a reward school in our eyes. Just because we've reached this pinnacle doesn't mean that there's not ones ahead."
The superintendent plans to take the state's results and spread what Is working to other schools in the district.
"Any time we see academic achievement data, anytime we see academic growth data, we really want to look into that, take a heard look at it and say 'What's going well here?' or 'What are some of the challenges here?'," said Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent. "This is a great opportunity for us to take a hard look at a place like South Doyle Middle School and say 'What are we doing here that's really working, and how can we learn from that and really leverage it across the rest of the school system?'"
Other districts with Reward Schools include Blount County, Claiborne County, Clinton, Cocke County, Grainger, Greene County, Greeneville, Hawkins County, Jefferson County, Maryville, McMinn County, Meigs County, Monroe County, Oak Ridge, Rhea County, Rogersville, Scott County, and Sevier County.
A full list is available on the Tennessee Department of Education's website.