Superintendent delivers Second Annual “State of the Schools” Address
State of the Schools Video
Founder, CEO of Radio Systems
Board of Education
Knox County Mayor
School Board Chair Karen Carson, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, and Randy Boyd, Founder and CEO of Radio Systems, joined Dr. McIntyre in sharing their perspectives on public education in our community.
Speech as prepared for delivery
STATE OF THE SCHOOLS ADDRESS
DR. McINTYRE REMARKS AS PREPARED
FEBRUARY 5, 2013
Good evening. Thank you, Mrs. Carson, for your kind introduction. I also want to thank each of our School Board Members for allowing me the privilege of serving as the Superintendent of Schools for our wonderful community. I am extremely grateful to the School Board members for their remarkable commitment to the education, safety, and developmental needs of the children of the Knox County Schools.
As we begin tonight’s event, I would like to start by paying tribute to two universally respected and widely revered leaders in education who passed away last year: Ms. Sarah Moore Greene and Dr. Paul Kelley. The positive impact these two individuals have had on children and our community is immeasurable. We are forever grateful for their tireless advocacy on behalf of our young people, and they will be tremendously missed. Thankfully, their legacy will live on through the Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Elementary School and the Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy.
I am pleased to stand before you tonight for the Second Annual State of the Schools Address and Progress Report. As you may remember from last year, I talked about the many successes of our school system…but I was also very clear that in order to be successful we would need to significantly accelerate our work. I encouraged us all to remember that the work of educating children is not a sprint, but a long term undertaking. In the Knox County Schools, we have worked hard to balance a deep sense of urgency regarding instructional improvement with the need to ensure sustainability of high quality education into the future. We have to make sure that our improvement efforts are – to borrow a phrase – “built to last.”
Tonight I want to briefly give you a sense of the state of our schools – where we have been, we are today, and where we aspire to be in the future with regard to the education of our children in the Knox County Schools.
We are fortunate to be living in a truly remarkable time for public education in our community and in the state of Tennessee. In the past few years, the state has adopted radically higher academic standards, moved to a rigorous annual performance evaluation for teachers, embraced strategic compensation, created a new interest-based dialogue called collaborative conferencing, and made several other fundamental structural changes to schooling in Tennessee.
These have been important, necessary and largely successful changes to K through 12 education in order to prepare our students for success in a changing world. Clearly, the past several years we have been on a bold path of innovation in public education. And now, we are beginning to see some significant dividends from the educational investments of the past few years.
In 2009, the Knox County Board of Education adopted a five-year Strategic Plan, entitled Excellence for All Children. It provides a vision and a blueprint for a brighter future for our children and our community as we all work together to support outstanding public education.
Now in its fourth year of implementation, the initiatives and strategies laid out in our strategic plan are increasingly producing strong academic results. In last year’s State of the Schools address, I said that we can do better, we must do better and, with your help, we will do better. Tonight, I’m pleased to report, we ARE doing better.
The Tennessee Department of Education recently released the school year 2011-12 Report Cards for schools and school districts, and by virtually every quantifiable measure of student learning and success, the Knox County Schools saw positive results, and some impressive gains.
While we still face our share of challenges, our schools are busy, vibrant hubs of learning… and we are making strong academic progress by a variety of indictors that I’d like to share with you…
First, The State of Tennessee has recognized excellent school performance by identifying “Reward Schools” across the State of Tennessee. Reward Schools, under Tennessee’s new Accountability System, are the top 5 percent of schools in the state in achievement or academic growth. The Knox County Schools is pleased to have 10 schools designated as Reward Schools. Would the principals and staff of the following Reward Schools please stand? Bearden Elementary, Carter Elementary, Corryton Elementary, Gap Creek Elementary, Ritta Elementary, Sequoyah Elementary, Shannondale Elementary, South Doyle Middle School, and Whittle Springs Middle School. Let’s give them a round of applause!
But wait… there’s one more. We are thrilled to be here at Powell High School tonight, and it is no accident.
One of the first schools in our community was right here in Powell (which, at the time, was still called Powell’s Station). Built in the 1820s, the Brown School began to provide a free public education to local students starting somewhere around 1850, thus pre-dating the Knox County School system by almost 25 years! Today we celebrate the hard work of the faculty and staff, and the diligence of our students, as we recognize Powell High School as one of Tennessee’s Reward Schools. If you are a teacher, staff member, parent or student at Powell HS, please stand and be recognized. Congratulations!
In terms of district-wide results, we are showing strong academic progress as measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (better known as the TCAP). In 2011-12 the Knox County Schools saw overall TCAP scores in grades 3-8 that increased in all four tested areas: Math, ELA/Reading, Social Studies and Science.
Our TCAP proficiency rates in all four subject areas were higher than the state as a whole, and increased by about 2 to 5 percent from the previous school year, depending on the subject. In addition, our proficiency rates in the critical area of 3rd grade English/language arts and reading increased from 47% to 51% percent. Our TCAP achievement results are still not yet where we aspire to be, but we have seen strong gains virtually across-the-board on the TCAP assessment.
We are also showing strong academic progress on state End of Course Assessments at the high school level. In four out of six tested categories we achieved a positive outcome, including a more than 10% increase in proficiency on the Algebra I End of Course assessment.
We’re showing strong progress with regard to student academic growth as illustrated by our outcomes on the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System (commonly referred to as TVAAS). In 2011-12 students in the Knox County Schools experienced positive (and often significant) academic growth in 18 of 20 elementary and middle school grade/subject combinations, and in 7 of 9 high school categories.
What about our actual report card grades from the state of Tennessee?
• As a school system, we receive a letter grade in each of the four major subjects both for achievement and value added student growth. In achievement, we received an A and three Bs. In value-added growth, it was one A, one B, and two Cs. - and we’re making strong progress here too:
• For the second consecutive year, the Knox County Schools’ overall grades were either higher than, or on par with the State of Tennessee in every category.
• We advanced from a B to an A grade in achievement in social studies, and also advanced from a B to an A in value-added growth in social studies.
• 20 schools posted all As in achievement versus 14 in 2011. In value added, five schools scored all As versus 2 in 2011.
• Two schools earned straight As in both achievement and value-added for the second consecutive year: A.L. Lotts Elementary and Rocky Hill Elementary.
Basically, this positive report card puts our school system on the high end of the student achievement continuum across the state, while also highlighting some areas for us to focus on in order to accelerate student academic growth. I am perhaps most proud to report that we are making strong academic progress in effectively preparing our students for college and career. Like the rest of the state of Tennessee, our school system still has a small but growing proportion of our students meeting all four college readiness benchmarks on the ACT assessment, but we have reason to be excited:
For the class of 2012, our official four-year high school graduation rate stands at 90.3 percent! That is a considerable increase from a high school graduation rate of 79.3% just five years ago.
Clearly, our focused efforts to help students achieve this critical milestone are having an impact. Freshmen academies, graduation coaches, instructional improvement efforts, credit recovery programs, interventions and academic supports for students, and the Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy are having a profoundly positive effect on our ability to support and facilitate students’ success in high school.
What’s even more encouraging is that we have been able to facilitate this increase in our high school graduation rate while also increasing our composite ACT score. While our high school graduation rate improved more than 3 percentage points for the class of 2012, the composite ACT score for our graduates also increased - from a 20.4 to a 20.6. These concurrent achievements reinforce the fact that a greater number of our students are graduating with an even more rigorous high school diploma – better preparing them for the challenges they face in our rapidly changing global environment.
In fact, you may remember that a key goal of our strategic plan is 100-90-90-90, that is:
• 100% of students completing HS
• At least 90% graduating with a regular diploma
• At least 90% of our graduates taking the ACT, and
• At least 90% of ACT takers scoring a 21 or better
Well, we tend to aggregate those figures together, and when we do, we have seen the percentage of incoming freshman graduating successfully four years later with a 21 or better on the ACT increase from 34% in 2009 to over 40% for the class of 2012. Now, Our goal is 72% (that’s 100% X 90% X 90% X 90%) so we still have a lot more ground to cover, but clearly we are making strong academic progress in preparing our young people for a bright, competitive, and successful future.
Why is that important? Well, let me put it simply in one word: jobs. Recent unemployment figures put the overall unemployment rate for the United States at 7.9%. But that is an aggregate rate, and breaking it down further is very telling. For individuals without a high school diploma, the unemployment rate is 13.9%, while for those with a diploma, some post-secondary education, or a bachelor’s degree or beyond, the unemployment rate ranges from about 4% to 9%.
Given these figures, one of the best ways to ensure our children have access to good jobs in their future, is to make sure they have access to a great education today. With all this talk of economic development strategies, it turns out that one of the best possible jobs programs and greatest boosts to the local economy is simply having an outstanding public school system.
So, to summarize our results, while we certainly do not want to overlook our considerable challenges, we are pleased to be making strong academic progress.
I will tell you that our recent successes are not attributable to a single program or initiative - there’s no silver bullet or secret sauce -- just a lot of hard work, focused around great instruction, on the part of many people, over a sustained period of time…
So that’s a little bit about where we have been… let’s spend a few minutes talking about where we are today. In the current fiscal year, the School Board approved, and the Knox County Commission appropriated an additional $7 million in critical instructional improvement initiatives. These important investments are helping to fuel our strong academic progress.
For example, we are investing in building a strong foundation in the early grades. As part of our $7 million budget increase last year, County Mayor Tim Burchett supported, and the County Commission appropriated funding to expand our 1st grade literacy program from five schools to ten additional schools, and to expand effective early literacy strategies to all schools across the district. I appreciate the Mayor’s recognition that reading competently is the single most important activity in the academic life of young children.
We’ve seen tremendous results in our pilot program, and we believe that expansion of the formal 1st grade literacy program -- coupled with a comprehensive implementation of successful early literacy interventions, supports, and practices -- will have a significantly positive impact on early literacy in the Knox County Schools, making sure our students are prepared to be academically successful right from the start.
Our thanks to all our terrific educators who are working so diligently to support early literacy for our children!
This $7 million investment also includes significant funding for student academic supports such as interventions, tutoring, expanded learning centers at our high schools, and a summer bridge program for 6th grade students.
At the same time, we are investing in enrichment for our students as well – making sure that all students experience learning activities that challenge, engage and excite them! From robotics to the Arts, this year our students will have access to a variety of enrichment experiences that will enhance their learning.
Also as a part of our additional $7 million appropriation, the Community Schools initiative was expanded to three additional schools: Norwood Elementary, Lonsdale Elementary, and Green Magnet Math and Science Academy. Community schools extend learning opportunities and leverage community partnerships to provide supports to our kids and families.
Community Schools are an important strategy for organizing and aligning the resources of the school and community around student success, family efficacy, and neighborhood vitality. Based on the success of the program at Pond Gap ES, which has been generously funded by Mr. Randy Boyd, (who we’ll be hearing from shortly) these schools are now poised for greater success.
The additional investment this year also included enhancements to all of our existing magnet schools, which offer unique educational opportunities and enhanced choice options for our students and families.
As we bolster the existing magnet programs we have also added several new programs in the past two years, including the Fulton School of Communications, the International Baccalaureate programme at West HS, and the L&N STEM Academy.
As we look to the future, we hope to explore additional high quality magnet programs, potentially including STEM and IB Middle Schools, a Montessori school, and hopefully a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Magnet high school, potentially in partnership with Pellissippi State Community College at their Strawberry Plains Campus. We look forward to building on the growing momentum of our magnet schools.
Of course, critical to success in all of these areas are our teachers, and the additional investments we are making in the current fiscal year include a substantial teacher support component.
((( 2ND grade student story )))
So… the secret is out: we are extremely fortunate to have exceptional teachers in the Knox County Schools.
We have a new performance evaluation system in our state, the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (or TEAM), that requires an annual evaluation of every teacher. While TEAM is a performance evaluation system, in the Knox County Schools we have viewed it primarily as a developmental tool. In order to ensure student academic success, we must invest in our teachers through high quality and focused professional development, as well as other instructional supports, including lead teachers and instructional coaches.
In addition to TEAM, TAP (formerly the Teacher Advancement Program) is now in its 7th year in KCS. This terrific school improvement strategy relies on teacher leadership, teacher collaboration, accountability and strategic compensation to enhance instruction and achieve greater academic outcomes for children.
What began as a two-year pilot program in 2006 with just a few schools, has turned into now 18 schools using the TAP System here in Knoxville, and the TAP performance evaluation rubric has now become the default evaluation instrument for the entire state of Tennessee.
Both TAP and TEAM continue to show us that when we align the elements of teacher performance evaluation, professional development, and strategic compensation…and also provide the support of instructional coaches and teacher leaders, it is our students who ultimately benefit.
We have set our expectations high, and our teachers’ expertise, diligence and dedication to our students is making an obvious difference in preparing our kids for a successful future. We are very fortunate to have such extraordinary educators in the Knox County Schools, and I sincerely appreciate all that they do.
Will all of our teachers and school leaders here tonight please stand so we may recognize your hard work and unwavering commitment to children?
And part of supporting our educators, is compensating them as professionals.
APEX, which stands for Advance-Perform-EXcel, helps us to do precisely that. APEX is our strategic compensation system that recognizes and rewards the inputs and outcomes that support greater student academic achievement and growth. APEX recognizes teachers who attain above-expectations results on TEAM, demonstrate strong instructional leadership, and/or provide consistent, high quality teaching in our high needs schools.
APEX reflects the belief that our compensation system should be aligned to our most important instructional goals, and that we must continue to focus on increased student learning through effective classroom teaching.
I’m pleased to report that based on the remarkable academic performance that our students experienced last year, this fall we paid out over $3million to nearly 2,100 teachers and school administrators in APEX performance incentive awards. That represents about 58% of our teachers.
Thankfully, we were able to obtain these funds through federal grants that include Race to the Top, the Innovation Acceleration Fund, and the Teacher Incentive Fund.
While teachers are integral to student achievement, we can’t be successful without the help and support of parents. Family and community engagement provides the critical infrastructure and reinforcement to our young people. To help guide this effort, the Knox County Schools has established and developed the Family and Community Engagement District Advisory Council. The Council is designed to have parent representation and administration support from all of our schools, and to play a broad role in guiding and focusing our family and community engagement activities.
As you can see, we are making strong academic progress, and investing wisely in strategies and initiatives that support student success, but we are also at a pivotal point in the Knox County Schools. As we look ahead, to where we are going, we are now in year four of our five-year Strategic Plan, Excellence for All Children. We have spent the past four years working from this detailed blueprint for our instructional work in the Knox County Schools. Our strategic plan is not just a dusty document on a shelf. It is our roadmap for continued educational improvement – a document we use every day as our planning tool, our resource allocation guide, and our “to do” list.
Our teachers, administrators, staff, and community are aware of the goals of the strategic plan that drive our decision-making: focus on the student, effective educators, engaged families and community, infrastructure to support student learning, and accountability to ensure results.
We are approaching the end of our strategic plan’s five year timeframe, and now is the time to begin developing “Excellence 2.0,” the next five year phase of our strategic plan that will build upon our accomplishments and continue our proud tradition of student academic success and instructional innovation.
This “next chapter” will address our greatest challenges that still lie ahead. We must connect high standards and effective instruction through the new Common Core State Standards. And we must ensure that the strong academic progress we are seeing is experienced universally by every student, in every school, in every corner of our community, and by all categories of kids.
Since our transition to new standards three years ago, we have begun to see some achievement gaps emerge. For example, looking at 3rd through 8th grade mathematics, we see double-digit variances in 2012 TCAP proficiency levels for Asian and white students versus Hispanic and African-American students.
Achievement gaps in our school system that are defined by income, race, language or disability are simply unacceptable and must be addressed and eliminated. As we look back on the commemorations of the recent Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, I am reminded through the wisdom of Dr. King that it is both a moral imperative, and in our community’s best interests to ensure a universally outstanding educational experience for each and every one of our 56,000 individual students.
Common Core academic standards are a set of benchmarks for math and English/language arts that were developed by education leaders across the nation to ensure that every student graduates high school prepared for college or the workforce. These rigorous standards are designed to set clear expectations of what students should know in each grade and subject, and will be fully implemented in Tennessee next year.
In its simplest form, the Common Core is about depth of learning. Instead of having hundreds of different standards to cover, Common Core allows teachers to explore critical skills and concepts in greater depth and detail. It emphasizes the so-called 21st Century workplace skills that employers desire: problem solving, application of knowledge, critical thinking, analysis, and effective communication.
Tennessee has also joined the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers - called PARCC. PARCC tests will assess Common Core standards, and will soon replace the TCAP tests. By the 2014-15 school year, the PARCC assessments are expected to be administered to all students exclusively online.
This requirement presents a huge challenge, as access to suitable technology is surprisingly limited in our schools. As you know, this was a major emphasis of our budget conversation last year…and we hope to continue this “digital conversation” in the coming months- but, not because of the PARCC on-line assessments alone. Instructional technology is a much broader educational issue.
Which brings me to the issue of resources. This past spring, we had a very robust public discussion about the Knox County Schools budget. This generally healthy dialogue centered around the educational needs of our children, and what level of investment in public education is necessary to ensure a bright future for our kids and our community. The School Board and I plan to continue that conversation in the coming weeks and months.
As I think about next year’s budget development process, and as I talk with parents, teachers and school board members, four clear resource priorities surface:
The first is sustaining and perhaps enhancing the instructional improvement initiatives that have been put in place this year with the supplemental appropriation of $7 million. As I highlighted earlier, these resources have been invested in critical strategies such as early literacy efforts, teacher supports and professional development; magnet and community schools; as well as interventions, tutorial services, and academic enrichment for students.
These strategies were chosen because research and experience tell us they are effective, and an important reason why we are making strong academic progress. We believe these efforts are making a difference in student learning and success, and it is critical that they continue.
Second, I believe that for our school system to remain competitive, we need to enhance the level of compensation for our educators. We have placed high standards and a great deal of accountability on our teachers, and we need to provide them with the tools, resources, and pay commensurate with our ambitious expectations. As I mentioned a great deal last year, the average salary for a Knox County Schools teacher ranks 37th in the state among school systems. Our very best teachers can, and frequently do, leave us to teach at neighboring school districts and immediately make as much as $8,000 or $9,000 more.
I believe we need to both increase the base salary of our teachers, and that we need to sustain and enhance our APEX strategic compensation initiative. Addressing the issue of compensation will better enable us to retain our extremely talented teaching corps, and recruit outstanding educators for the future.
Third, as we consider the new higher academic expectations that are upon us in the form of the Common Core Standards, and as we examine the best ways to accelerate student results, close achievement gaps, and ensure that every student in the Knox County Schools experiences academic success, our third resource priority will be to facilitate personalized learning with the support of instructional technology.
Many children across the Knox County Schools experience an odd dynamic – they “power up” at home…and “power down” when they come to school. Quite frankly, we should not create an environment where kids have to leave technology at the steps of the schoolhouse door. Imagine, if you will, a work or home environment where you had to leave your computer or laptop, cell phone, tablet or other devices outside the door – or you had to walk to a computer lab down the hall at a specified time in order to send an e-mail. Productivity would stop. Completely.
Our district has had the opportunity to learn about digital “best practices” from neighboring Mooresville, North Carolina’s school district.– They have a widely-recognized instructional technology initiative that supports every student in the district. Every single student.
The successful Mooresville experience, and the technology initiatives at our own L&N STEM Academy and a handful of other schools, have reinforced for us that technology is not a TOY…it’s a TOOL. In fact, these successful technology initiatives really aren’t about the technology at all… they’re about what teachers and kids can do when they have the technology as a teaching tool and as a learning tool.
Let me be clear… instructional technology does not replace the teacher. Instructional technology gives the teacher a resource to help him or her provide even more engaging, creative, effective, differentiated instruction.
Our children are expected to function in a digital world and we must educate them in one. We must meet students in their interconnected world and address their various and interactive learning styles.
More broadly, we must create a personalized, student-centered learning environment that is designed to meet the individual educational needs of each of our students and prepare them for success in a complex and increasingly competitive world. I believe instructional technology will help us get there.
In the coming year, we intend to start our leap into instructional technology on a small scale. Tonight I am pleased to announce that we will begin an internal competition to identify approximately 10 schools across the County that have the interest, the passion, and the capacity to effectively implement a 1:1 technology initiative (that’s one technology device for each one student /one teacher).
This “School Technology Challenge” which will require some committed budgetary resources in Fiscal Year 2014, will allow us to demonstrate the power and importance of instructional technology in our schools, and give our school system and our community some real life examples of how the technology will positively impact instruction and student achievement.
I invite you to visit one of our interactive “technology demonstration areas” just outside the auditorium after tonight’s Address to “test drive” (if you will) some of the instructional technology initiatives we employ at a limited number of our schools. Teachers and students from several of our schools are eager to show you how instructional technology can differentiate instruction and enhance the classroom learning experience.
Finally, in light of the tragic violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December, I believe it is incumbent upon us as a school system and as a community to take another hard look at our safety and security protocols and strategies. As I have said many times, student safety and school security are the highest priority in the Knox County Schools every single day. We are proud of the comprehensive safety efforts that we have put in place, and are grateful for the extraordinary partnerships we enjoy with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Knoxville Police.
But in the days since the Sandy Hook incident, we have committed ourselves to reviewing all of our safety plans, procedures, and strategies; and carefully considering if there is more we should be doing, or enhancements we can make.
We have recently had a great deal of conversation about the electronic security systems in place in the Knox County Schools. While we have reviewed these systems to ensure their essential functionality, I will tell you that these systems alone… are simply not enough.
I believe we must invest in having a more intensive and robust level of safety resources at each of our schools. At a minimum, we must have current-generation video monitoring systems at each of our schools; camera-buzzer systems, keyless entry and/or secure entrance vestibules at each of our facilities to enhance school access control; and yes, I believe we should have an armed, uniformed school resource officer or school security officer at each and every one of our schools.
In the coming days and weeks, I will develop a recommendation to the School Board that includes these security investments, and will continue the public discussion around safety and security in our schools. We want to hear from you, our parents, teachers, and stakeholders.
So those are the four areas of priority that are emerging in our preliminary budget conversations: sustaining our instructional improvement initiatives, bolstering our educator compensation, facilitating personalized learning supported by technology, and enhancing our student safety efforts.
I hope you won’t mind if I close with something of a personal note…
Some of you have wondered why I am pretty fanatical about insisting on putting the “Jr.” after my name in letters and other formal documents. And the reason is… that it’s a respectful tribute to the original James McIntyre, my dad. (although my 13 year old son, James, argues that it’s to make sure people don’t confuse me with him!) My dad is 78 and has been a bit sick lately – and I’m excited that I’m actually going to have the chance to see him this weekend – but despite his age and his illness, I can assure you that he is an extraordinary man.
My dad grew up in poverty, raised by an immigrant single mother, as his own father had died when he was only 6 years old. But through the power of education, he rose above it all, put himself through college at night, served in the U.S. Army, married a wonderful woman and raised six children. He has truly lived the American Dream. His experience is a big part of why I am so passionate about the importance of education.
My dad was a child of the Great Depression, and while extremely generous, he is perhaps the most frugal man I‘ve ever met. When I was growing up he would explain that contradiction by saying this: “I don’t mind spending money, I just never want to waste it.” I can tell you that I am definitely my father’s son. I work hard every day to make sure that the taxpayer’s money that we’re trusted with is used wisely, efficiently, and effectively.
If we identify any resources that are not being used well, we deal with it and we correct it. But I truly believe we need to be willing to commit appropriate resources… to get great results.
Tonight, I can tell you with confidence that the Knox County Schools is a great investment. Our kids are a great investment. And the four priority areas that I have laid out are necessary and important investments in the future of our children and the success of our community.
Thank you for your deep and abiding commitment to our students, and thank you for all you do to help us achieve our ambitious goal of Excellence for All Children.
Thank you very much.
Photo courtesy of Knox County Schools Career & Technical Education Workbased Learning photography class better known as the 'Paparazi.' Janna Renee Crisp, Garret Townsend, Chastity Hurst, Rachel Caylor (Fulton High students) and Adam Swift (STEM Academy).