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Strategic Plan: Goal I: Focus On the Student

Objective III:
Aligning Supports in High Needs Schools
 Across the Knox County Schools, we must aggressively work to eliminate achievement gaps defined by race, income, geography, language and/or disability.  In our highest needs schools, we must not only ensure excellent instruction in the classroom, but we must also provide aligned and coherent support, and continue to encourage talented teachers and strong leaders to apply their skills to our greatest challenges.

                                                                            STRATEGIC INITIATIVES                                                                              

Support High Needs Schools
 
High needs schools are loosely defined by  common characteristics  such as high poverty, high student and teacher mobility rates, low student attendance, high levels of student discipline issues and suspensions, high number of dropouts, and unfortunate numbers of children exposed to trauma or violence.  Some high needs schools serve large proportions of students of color in our inner city, but other high needs schools are more diverse, or serve a largely low-income white population.  High needs schools often see relatively low performance on standardized assessments, such as TCAP, EXPLORE, and ACT, but interestingly, frequently show great student academic growth as defined by Tennessee’s Value Added Assessment System (TVAAS).  To overcome these obstacles to student learning, these schools must have additional layers of support.  This support must be coordinated and aligned in order to narrow and eventually eliminate any achievement gaps.  

Support is provided through the Knox County Schools Office of Urban Schools, Project GRAD, Title I, Magnet Schools, and Community-Assisted Full-Service Schools, among others. The Office of Urban Schools, Project GRAD, Title I, Full-Service Schools, and our Magnet Schools program must better align their efforts to improve and support high needs schools. Accessing and using these services must be simple and straightforward for the principals, teachers, students, and families who need them, and there must be great synergy and collaboration among and between these programs for the supports to be effective and coherent in our schools.
 
•    Urban Schools
 
We currently have an urban schools central office structure that oversees the 14 schools that reside in Knoxville’s empowerment zone.  While this organizational design has its advantages in terms of additional support in our urban schools, and coordination of services among many providers, there are also disadvantages.  One concern is that a differentiated structure could lead to different expectations in our highest needs schools, which is unacceptable.  Another concern is the lack of alignment with all other KCS schools that is virtually institutionalized by this arrangement.  The Urban Schools organizational structure will be re-examined, and a determination will be made as to the effectiveness and future viability of this design.
 
•    Project GRAD
 
Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) is a vibrant private-public partnership which provides services to 14 schools in the Heart of Knoxville.  These services currently include Campus Family Support, School Climate, instructional coaches, and college support in the form of graduation coaches.  Project GRAD’s organizational structure must complement rather than compete with the district’s supervision and direction.  The data regarding outcomes in Project GRAD schools is admittedly mixed, but there are many bright spots and promising results in the data, which warrant continued commitment to this urban education reform model.  We will continue to closely monitor the effectiveness of Project GRAD, and work with its Board to ensure maximum coordination and alignment.
 
•    Magnet Schools
 
Current Magnet Schools or “Schools of Choice” are Beaumont, Green, Sarah Moore Greene Elementary Schools, Vine Middle School and Austin-East High School.  While a few of our magnet schools are flourishing, most are magnets in name only.  In other school districts, magnet schools have proven to be an effective means of offering innovative and enriching educational experiences.  The magnet program will be maintained, embraced and given our full commitment.  Programming, structure and theme must be evaluated and designed to offer unique and challenging learning opportunities that are not available at other Knox County Schools.  Our magnet schools - if crafted, executed and marketed effectively - will become an enticing and viable pathway to success for students, and an attractive additional option for parents to consider for their children.  Planning for a new high quality stand alone magnet technology high school is already under way.   

•    Title I
 
Title I refers to Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESEA), the most recent re-authorization of which is known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Title I is a longstanding federal program under which funding is provided to improve academic achievement of disadvantaged students.  It provides funding for supplemental services in schools that serve a relatively high proportion of students living in poverty.  Title I was once a pull-out reading program only for low-income children, but the model has changed to allow for any school with a rate of poverty of 40% or higher to use the funding to offer “school wide” educational programs that benefit all children in the school.  Funds are distributed to Title I schools for additional personnel, to purchase additional materials and supplies, for staff development opportunities, or for any area of spending that will enhance the success of the students, and is part of the school’s improvement plan.
The Knox County Schools will receive significant additional Title I dollars in 2009-2011 as part of the federal economic stimulus package.  These monies will be used to expand the number of Title I schools in the KCS for a two-year period.  The focus of these expenditures will be on building enhanced instructional capacity for the long term, so schools will focus on professional development, teacher collaboration and teacher leadership efforts.
 
•    University-Assisted Full Service Schools
 
Current Full Service Schools include Pond Gap, Sarah Moore Green, Inskip, Greene, and Sam E. Hill.  Students who receive these support services, including medical, dental, vision, academic enrichment, and parental support services, are more prepared to learn and likely to succeed.
 


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