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Annenberg report on Central Office released

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The Annenberg Institute for School Reform today released a comprehensive report culminating the year-long Central Office Review for Results and Equity undertaken by Annenberg, the school system and the Great Schools Partnership.

The Central Office Review for Results and Equity (CORRE) looks closely at how the central office serves its schools and the district.  CORRE is based on research into how district central offices can support schools and high student achievement.  A district CORRE Team, facilitated by Annenberg Institute staff, worked over several months to identify high-priority issues in the district, gather quantitative and qualitative data. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform then analyzed the data, identified gaps to close and made recommendations for improvement.

The CORRE team is composed of community members, parents, teachers, administrators, and Annenberg staff members.  The team collected data from parents, teachers, administrators, students, and business and community leaders.

Although the CORRE analysis includes some quantitative data, the review findings are based primarily on the perceptions of stakeholders throughout the county.  The findings and recommendations will help the school system and the greater community identify key priorities and areas on which to focus future efforts.  

According to Marla Ucelli, Director of District Redesign and Leadership, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, “Knox County Schools is among a small minority of school districts with the courage to hold up a mirror to its own practices, knowing both strengths and weaknesses would be reflected. And even more impressive than inviting the scrutiny of a Central Office Review is the school system’s commitment to go public with the results and make changes based on what it learns.

“The CORRE report identifies that KCS has enviable strengths and much to be proud of,” said Ucelli.  “There is great potential for it to go from a good school system for some students to a great school system for all students.  But getting there will require concerted action on each of the six recommendations set forth in the report.”

The report identifies several areas where the school system has challenges to meet or “gaps to close."
These are:

1.    Coherence gap: program sprawl, lack of focus, shifting priorities, coordination of human and fiscal resources

2.    Service gap: service orientation around certain central office functions

3.    Achievement gap: lack of universal access to resources and supports for success

4.    Human capital gap: coordination of offices and activities that make-up and impact KCS' approach to human capital management

5.    Expectations gap: high expectations for students across all demographic groups and achievement levels

6.    Partnership gap: frustration among community members around collaborating with KCS plus untapped capacity present in Knox County

7.    Communications gap: feedback and transparency

The six recommendations Annenberg makes to close the identified gaps are:

1.    Eliminate “program sprawl” by aligning central office resources with Knox County Schools’ vision of an effective school system.

2.    Build an equitable system of supports to serve all students in Knox County schools effectively.

3.    Prioritize human capital management as one of the district’s key functions in everyday practice.

4.    Institutionalize high expectations and provide meaningful choices to lead to post-high school success.

5.    Leverage the resources and capacity of the Knox County Community (universities, businesses, community groups etc.) through more effective partnerships and advocate for the creation of a local education fund.

6.    Increase accountability for education on the part of both KCS and the Knox County community by building a culture of communication and engagement.

In additional to making the broader recommendations, the report also identifies some specific strategies for the school system to consider as it addresses the recommendations.

“This is a very focused and thought provoking report that provides valuable insights, observations, and recommendations,” said Dr. Jim McIntyre, superintendent of Knox County Schools.  “The information it provided in this report will be invaluable to me as I develop a vision for the future of our school system.  I think the report will also help us to begin a broader community dialogue about education and what we want our schools to be.  Of particular initial interest to me are the findings and recommendations the report provides concerning human capital management.  Above all else, a school system is people, and we must invest in our people if we expect to achieve at high levels.

“I am currently executing a defined entry plan that will culminate in the development of a strategic vision for the future of the school system,” he said.  “The CORRE report is one of many sources of information that I will use as I develop that vision.  I expect to present my vision to the Board of Education and the community late this fall.”

The report states that “'when it comes to student performance, among urban districts in Tennessee, KCS consistently scores high on the state's proficiency tests in language arts and math, as well as on value-added measures. KCS has also made significant increases in the number of its schools meeting Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks.” It also recognizes the district’s reputation for innovation, and the strong community identification.

The report continues to say “Knox County residents have much to take pride in. More important, the community and school system have a strong base upon which to build.”

“The strength of our school system is a very important point that we should not overlook,” said McIntyre.  “Knox County Schools has a history of strong academic performance for us to build upon.  We are a very solid school system, but we must continue to improve so we can give our students the skills they need to be successful today and tomorrow.  That is our goal.

“Two very important themes that run through the report are those of communication and collaboration,” he said.  “Many of the recommendations made in the report require that we  work together as a school system and as a community to better meet the needs of our students.  We have a strong educational foundation, and we have a committed and supporting community.  This gives us a great place from which to start.  The school system alone cannot achieve the level of performance we need for our students.  However, together as a community, we can ensure that all of our schools are outstanding, and that all of our students are achieving at high levels.”




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