Johnny McDaniel, Bradley County schools director, quoted Alvin Toffler while discussing the ways county students are being prepared for their future. His comments came during Thursday’s weekly luncheon of the Cleveland Kiwanis Club.
“We try to find ways to be innovative, to think outside of the box to help children be successful,” McDaniel said. “You can be proud of what we do in Bradley County. You can be proud of your schools and the people who work with your children.”
According to McDaniel, 66.5 percent of the 10,700 students in Bradley County are economically disadvantaged. These students are spread across 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, a virtual school and a hybrid high school.
The graduation rate for Bradley County schools is 93.5 percent. This is 3.5 percent higher than the No Child Left Behind national goal.
A part of student retention is giving all students, particularly high school freshmen, a place to belong.
“Eighty percent of the dropouts in high school failed the ninth grade. So if you want to do something about dropouts, then do something about ninth grade,” McDaniel said.
Ninth-grade academies gained popularity. Both Bradley Central and Walker Valley have the academies as part of their students’ education.
“The ninth-grade academy provides extra support from teachers who are focused around the needs of the students. From there, you don’t want to just lose them,” McDaniel said.
“The academy model organizes the school around student interests so the academics support the focus of the academy.”
McDaniel said Bradley County is ranked in the bottom of funding in Tennessee. Likewise, he said Tennessee is one of the lowest funded states in the country.
“With that said, I am proud of what we are doing with what we have. You can be proud of it, too,” McDaniel said. “We have schools in the top 5 percent. Our system is one of the best academically in the state.”
He mentioned several building projects and needs:
- The Walker Valley High School expansion through the hazard mitigation grant of $1.4 million will build an eight classroom addition and expand the cafeteria.
- Several roofing and HVAC repairs throughout the system.
- Lake Forest needs a new academic building to replace 13 out-pods.
Students are competing against more than their immediate peers.
“They compete with people across the state, across the country, across the world,” McDaniel said.
He said the world is changing.
“The community has changed, the world has changed — and that is what Toffler is talking about. We have to have children who can learn, unlearn and relearn,” McDaniel said.
“So today I am here to report I think you can be very proud of what we are doing in Bradley County schools. We take your dollars as a great investment.”
Additional news shared by McDaniel included:
- County schools received more than $2.8 million in grants throughout last year.
- Hopewell Elementary was in the top 5 percentile in TCAP scores.
- Lake Forest Middle School, Bradley Central High School and Walker Valley were in the top 5 percent of Tennessee for the value added growth scores.
- Michigan Avenue Elementary is a Distinguished Title One school. It is the highest recognition a Title One school can receive from the state department, McDaniel said.