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< Table of Contents

Strategic Plan: Goal I: Focus On the Student

 
Objective I:
High Expectations and Academic Rigor
 
Principals, teachers, parents, students, and the larger Knox County community must hold high expectations for all students, while strengthening the rigor of academic offerings and standards.  Students must be challenged to meet their full potential and have the support to do so.  Students will respond to higher expectations, but our entire community must believe that all students are capable of meeting high standards, and accept nothing less from the students, parents, teachers, principals and the community at large.

The Knox County Schools will hold high expectations for all students and provide them the skills required in the 21st century world.  Students will be able to apply learning and adapt to new situations, to analyze, to synthesize information, solve problems, create knowledge, innovate, work collaboratively and use the full range of their capabilities.

                                                                           STRATEGIC INITIATIVES                                                                               

High Expectations for All Students
With the belief that every student has the capacity to learn and to achieve their full potential, students will be challenged individually through the use of rigorous, research-based curricula and differentiated instruction.  Academic rigor calls for more demanding content that pushes students to higher levels of thinking and application.  While we acknowledge that students have unique capabilities and learn at different rates, all students are expected to perform at least at a proficient level.

We must have high expectations and support for all students to ensure that academic success in Knox County is not highly correlated with race, income, geography, disability or language.  Enhancing cultural competency, broadening inclusion of students with disabilities in the regular education setting, continuing and strengthening our K-12 literacy program, and focusing resources to support schools with high proportions of low-income students are sound strategies to ensure that all students will be successful.

Each student will be challenged at his or her own readiness level and the focus will be on universally high academic standards and student outcomes, such as college and workforce readiness.  Students will be expected to develop the life skills and knowledge needed to be productive members of the community.

Special Education
The Knox County Schools will hold high expectations for students identified to receive special education services.   The KCS will accomplish this in a number of ways.

Inclusion –We know that inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education setting can be beneficial not only for the students with disabilities but also for their non-disabled peers.  Educating students in the least restrictive learning environment appropriate is not only the law, it is the right thing to do. The district will build additional capacity for broader inclusion of students with disabilities into general education classes, where appropriate.   

Transitions - The Knox County Schools will also focus on outcomes with regard to transitions to post-secondary life. The district performs above the national norm for employed students with disabilities, but there is a need to enhance these efforts. Active student and parent participation is needed for a successful transition and to increase the level of success experience by Knox County students.  The KCS will also explore additional methodologies to more appropriately measure transitions to post-secondary life.
 
Student Advancement Based On Mastery
The Knox County Schools administration will be clear and explicit about academic requirements, and students and staff will be held to those requirements.  Over a period of time, we must create a culture and a structure where no student will move to the next level, particularly at critical transition points, until he or she has sufficiently mastered the material and met the standards.  Transition periods requiring specific focus include: Kindergarten to First Grade, elementary to middle, middle to high school, and high school to college.  While we will expect mastery for all students, we will also expect all students to work hard and continue to learn in each grade level and class.

Relationships
Research shows that students who have at least one strong relationship with a caring adult at school are more likely to complete their school work, engage in the life of the school, experience academic success, and graduate on time. 
The Knox County Schools must create and foster an environment and culture where appropriate relationships between teachers and students are valued and developed.

•    Advisor/Advisee program
Advisory programs are small groups of students that meet regularly with an adult to discuss strategies for academic achievement, school issues, leadership, making good decisions, planning for the future, and other topics important to the development and success of our students.  The  advisory program allows for important issues to be addressed in a small discussion setting, but perhaps more importantly, fosters positive, productive relationships between educators and students.  The advisory can be a powerful tool to keep kids on track, and to help prevent drop-outs.  Eventually, each high school and middle school will have some form of a high quality advisory system that engages every student.

In advisories, it is important to keep the same advisors and advisees together for three or four years whenever possible.  Meetings are at least twice a week and credit is given (one-fourth credit, P/F grade given).  System-wide support for advisory programs will be enhanced, including effective curricular offerings from our successful existing programs.  A rubric shall be developed and used to measure activity and performance.

A balance will be struck between district-wide expectations and quality measures, and allowing some level of flexibility for each advisory program to develop organically in ways that best support each individual school’s students.

•    Small Learning Communities (SLCs)
 
Three high schools are now structured with Small Learning Communities (SLCs) as their organizing principle.  The concept behind SLCs is that within a larger comprehensive high school, small groups of students and adults are assigned to smaller units within the school called small learning communities.  These groups of students have their classes together, taught by the smaller grouping of faculty, thus providing for strong relationships to develop among and between students and adults in the SLC.  Where research has shown that relationships matter in the experiences and indeed the outcomes for high school students, SLCs can be a power strategy to allow for more collaboration and enhanced support for our students as they seek to achieve academically. 
 
•    Mentoring
 
Children benefit from additional adult support and guidance in their lives.  Several models of mentor/protégé relationships exist in Knox County.  Whether they are through formalized programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Emerald Youth Foundation program, part of a Project GRAD, or an individual school’s program, schools will be deliberate about such opportunities to their students.  Schools will seek to identify students who may benefit from a mentor and facilitate introductions between mentors and protégés.  Students who have a mentor and those who are equally at-risk who do not have a mentor will be tracked.

•    Graduation coaches 

Graduation coaches are a support that could be available in high schools to ensure that each student is prepared to graduate on time.  Graduation coaches work with students at risk of dropping out or not graduating on time, and they monitor and micro-manage each individual student’s progress toward appropriate graduation benchmarks. It is extremely helpful to have someone whose sole purpose is to support and direct students toward achieving their graduation requirements, but limited resources have made funding such positions difficult. The Knox County Schools will introduce a small number of graduation coaches in the coming years, and closely measure their progress and outcomes.

•    School Counselors and Social Workers
 
School counselors are tasked with many duties, including providing direction to students about post-secondary opportunities.  Academic, career, and college counseling is generally thought to happen at the high school level, but the role of counselors must include assistance in the middle school years as well, especially for average and low-performing students. 

School counselors need more exposure to and training about careers available in the coming years in order to properly advise students in planning for their future.  Partnerships with area employers to increase awareness, skill building, internships, apprenticeships, and employment opportunities are vital to this goal.  Professional development promoting best practices in school counseling programs shall also be used.

Social Workers have played a key role in connecting students to services, navigating student and family challenges, and monitoring attendance.  Social workers must be an important part of the solution for engaging students, developing relationships, and ensuring every student is supported in achieving academically.  Social workers will be more fully integrated into the student support infrastructure and given the tools and training needed to continue as a valuable asset in supporting the success of our students. 
 
Literacy and STEM
Increasing student achievement cannot be accomplished without focusing on two critical areas of learning: literacy and mathematics.  In Knox County, we believe that math should be an important curricular focus in its own right, but achievement in math can be enhanced and made more meaningful by linking it to application in science, technology and engineering. 

Therefore, integration of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines will also be an important component of our future instructional plans.

To ensure students can meet the high standards and expectations set for them, we must ensure that each student can read proficiently by 3rd grade, and continue to consistently read at or above grade level throughout their entire academic career.  Literacy is not only critical to a student’s academic success, but also to his or her lifelong ability to learn and grow as a citizen and participate in our society and economy. 

Focusing on STEM will give students important foundational knowledge and access to incredibly rich future opportunities, but also STEM disciplines are tightly aligned with the “21st century skills” such as critical thinking, innovation, and problem solving that will continue to be in high demand in the classroom and workplace of the future.  Proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and math will help students compete and excel in post-secondary education and in the workforce. 
 
•    Literacy 
 
Every student in the Knox County Schools will be expected to read proficiently by 3rd grade, and remain at or above grade level in reading until high school graduation. Where students are not on track to do so, or are struggling to read on their grade level, interventions are in place to support and move them forward.

•    Excellence Through Literacy
 
Excellence Through Literacy is a system-wide initiative to address the issue of struggling readers in grade K-12 by providing systematic and explicit instruction at every grade level.  Phase I focused on the older adolescent and Phase II focuses on the K-5 grades.

At the elementary level, interventions prior to 3rd Grade, behavioral interventions for struggling students, TCAP and other assessments are used to determine if a student needs intervention support and an appropriate placement.  Kindergarten Intervention, RTI (Response to Intervention), and other supports are critical to ensuring all students are reading on grade level.  Parallel-block scheduling at the elementary level allows for critical planning time for malleable ability-leveled reading groups and collaboration among grade level teachers. This, in turn, allows for better flexible grouping.  Teaching assistants are also in place to assist elementary teachers in added reading instruction. 

In grades 6-12 a “tier” system of support and intervention is used.  Students in Tier 1 may have some reading difficulties but can successfully access grade level language arts and English instruction with support.  Students in Tier 2 meet placement criteria for the Language! program.  Students in Tier 3 are placed in either Read 180 at the middle school level or Jamestown Reader at the high school level for intensive reading intervention. 

•    Language!
 
Launched in 2007, Language! is a literacy intervention program for students in grades 6-12 who are identified as reading two or more grade levels below their grade.  Language! is a bridge to move the KCS to teaching and integrating reading in every content area.  Its use is expected to be significantly reduced by 2013.  At that point reading will be embedded in every content area, and those additional resources will be redirected to early reading efforts in grades K-3.
 
•    Literacy Coaches and CIFs (Curriculum and Instruction Facilitators)
 
Literacy coaches (grades K-12) and CIF’s (grades K-5) are in place to increase student achievement in reading, language, and writing.  These coaches provide critical support and assistance to teachers in improving their instruction, including professional development and curriculum implementation responsibilities, in all schools.  To ensure the effectiveness of all coaches and instructional leadership personnel, the Knox County Schools will focus on district-wide alignment of coaches and CIFs.  Streamlined reporting structures, clear lines of responsibility and accountability, and unified professional development will ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness of these critically important positions. 

•    Intensify and Integrate a Focus on STEM
 
A focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics should not be an additional program or a stand-alone strategy, but rather an integrated and critical part of our curriculum and students’ learning in every school and at every grade level. Given the unique STEM resources in our region, the Knox County Schools is in a strong position to play a leadership role in becoming a “STEM school district” by successfully integrating STEM disciplines, utilizing local volunteers (such as Vols4STEM) and leveraging the business, government and university assets in our region to provide our students with an outstanding educational opportunity.  
•    Mathematics Instructional Coaches
 
The federal Title IIA grant provides resources for math instructional coaches in specific schools by improving teacher effectiveness in content and pedagogy.  The federal Title I grant also provides funding for math coaches to elementary schools eligible for Title I services.  These resources will be used strategically throughout the district to maximize their effect on student learning.

•    Science Academies
 
Teachers will receive training in science content, strategies, and assessments through content academies at varied locations and coaching training at every middle and high school.

•    Brand KCS as a STEM district  
 
The Knox County Schools can be a district in which many students are encouraged to pursue STEM disciplines and professions in college and business.  It will be a district where partnerships for teachers and students related to STEM disciplines are plentiful. 

The KCS will develop a branding effort that distinguishes KCS as a STEM incubator and leader.  Collaborating with universities, business government and the community, as well as using resources such as Vols4STEM, will be instrumental in achieving this goal.
 
•    Knox County Magnet Technology High School 
 
As articulated in our vision statement, the Knox County Schools will seek to establish a high-quality, stand-alone Magnet Technology High School. A workgroup will first assess feasibility of creating such a magnet technology high school. Then this group will examine whether adding a science, engineering, or mathematics theme to the technology focus would enhance the mission of such a school, or take away from it.

The work group is charged with researching and assessing the appropriate curriculum, partnerships, budget, facilities, school culture, technology, infrastructure, faculty, best practices, time frame, and leadership necessary to create a high functioning technology school of excellence.  A feasibility report is due in the fall of 2009.                                  
 

High Quality Career and Technical Education 
Thousands of Knox County’s young people get their start each year in exciting and rewarding Career-Technical Education (CTE) courses.  Now that Tennessee has only one pathway to graduation, the Knox County Schools must carefully consider how all students will be prepared for a rewarding career and lifetime of opportunities.  CTE courses are one way to prepare students to pursue those opportunities, whether students plan to further their education in community colleges, technical schools, or four-year colleges and universities.

The purpose of Career and Technical Education is to help empower students effectively participate in a global society.  CTE programs are designed to contribute to the broad academic achievement of all students by demonstrating the relevance of academic content through real world application.  The district’s CTE programs will be rigorous, relevant, project-based, and focused on preparing students for both post-secondary education and careers.  The Knox County Schools will periodically evaluate the current course offerings in CTE, and make adjustments based on the evolving job market and student demand. 

Strategically, the KCS must address the need to obtain and maintain current equipment and technologies required to create a relevant and effective learning environment for students to develop career and technical skills.  Instruction in these technologies will also have to be strategically located to impact the greatest number of students interested in these courses.  Clustering valuable resources at a few sites rather than a limited and inadequate amount of resources located at each school is one possible delivery method.  CTE must become more nimble and visionary to provide the skills training and knowledge that students will need to compete.

Courses will be taught by high quality instructors and advisory boards composed of business, and industry members will provide curricular insight as well as internships, scholarships, and mock interviews for students.  The KCS has several great partnerships in place, including the Y-12 Manufacturing Partnership at Byington-Solway and the TVA CADnet program at Gibbs High School.  Continued support of these relationships and building new partnerships to prepare our students for the future will be key to CTE success.  The district’s CTE curricula will have increased relevant and academic content, and there will be more integration and collaboration among general education and CTE.

The Knox County Schools and the greater Knox County community must overcome the misleading perceptions that have become attached to career and technical education or “vocational education.”  This education and training at the secondary level is key to the development of the region’s skilled workforce.  Additionally, the jobs that will be available to students trained in these areas represent the high skilled and high growth, well-paid professions that will be in demand in the coming years. 

•    Career and Technical Education Charter or Magnet High School
 
The Knox County Schools will explore the feasibility of developing a career and technical education charter or magnet high school in Knox County. Such a school would allow for greater instructional flexibility and broader access to critical CTE opportunities for students.
 
•    KeyTrain 
All high school students in Knox County will have access to KeyTrain in the 2009-2010 school year.  KeyTrain assesses skill levels in three areas: Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics, and Locating Information.  This program, more importantly, offers remediation for those skill areas.  The ideal plan for students is to assess their skill levels early and then remediate their particular weak areas as much as possible throughout their high school career.

While all Knox County high school students will have access to this resource, it is being implemented through CTE courses because 97% of students take at least one or more CTE class during their high school career.  Any student who wishes to access KeyTrain earlier will be able to do so.
 
Refine Curriculum Tools and Create Common Assessments
While the district has a common curriculum, the format and structure varies in each content area.  The Knox County Schools will develop and publish curriculum using a common format to allow for better vertical alignment and mapping across grade levels, and provide consistent measures for gauging teacher and student progress.

In concert with the Tennessee Diploma Project, the curriculum will emphasize 21st century skills, including creativity and innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration.  It will also integrate global awareness and civic and financial literacy. Additionally, students’ abilities to solve problems, collaborate, and show mastery of the standards will be increasingly demonstrated through student projects and portfolios.  The professional development process will be used to transition both new and experienced teachers to the new higher standards and expectations that will be in place starting in the fall of 2009.

Currently, there are no district-wide benchmarks for math as there are for reading.  The KCS will implement district-wide math benchmarks in the 2010-2011 school year. 
 
•    Develop a System of Formative Assessments
 
Teachers need to be able to continuously assess student progress toward our academic standards. Unlike summative assessments which provide a “snapshot” of student achievement at a point in time, usually long after the student has learned the content, formative assessments allow for a virtually real-time check on student learning.  Formative assessments can range from short teacher-made quizzes, to sophisticated district-wide assessment instruments.  The Knox County Schools will develop and support a portfolio of formative assessments that allows for periodic mandatory district-wide assessments, and facilitates teacher-made instruments tied to particular standards.  The data from these assessments will be loaded and available for analysis and to support instructional decision-making through our nascent data warehouse.    
 

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