By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
Many people see a new year as a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what is important and make new resolutions. That is the case for the directors of the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems, …
Many people see a new year as a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what is important and make new resolutions. That is the case for the directors of the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems, who have been contemplating their goals for 2018.
Dr. Russell Dyer, director of Cleveland City Schools, said he is anticipating a new year full of positive changes.
“Coming into a new year is always exciting, because it allows you to look back on what you’ve accomplished so far and see how things need to be in the future,” said Dyer.
The city schools director mentioned three main goals for the coming year.
The first is increasing the amount of opportunities students have to explore their career possibilities. The school system already offers opportunities like career and technical education and dual enrollment classes. However, Dyer said the school system is looking for ways to continue to provide such opportunities.
“I want us to get to the point where every student has some sort of post-secondary educational experience before they graduate from high school,” Dyer said.
Another big priority, affecting students in all grades, is to address school absences.
During an average week, about 4.8 percent of students in the city schools are absent, according to the city school system. Some of these absences are for legitimate reasons, like being sick, but some are not.
“We have too many students who miss school for various reasons not related to illness,” Dyer said. “We want to target those who are choosing not to go.”
Cleveland City Schools will also implement the next pieces of the BLADE Project in the coming year. BLADE stands for “Blended Learning and Digital Enhancement,” and it involves embedding more technology into classroom instruction.
This calendar year, students at Cleveland Middle School and Cleveland High School will be issued Chromebook laptop computers to use in their studies. The middle schoolers will get theirs this month, while the high schoolers will get theirs in the fall.
"We are very excited to see these devices going into students’ hands,” said Dyer.
Dr. Linda Cash, director of Bradley County Schools, expressed similar enthusiasm for the new year — and also mentioned some of the same goals.
At the start of the 2017-18 school year, the county school system kicked off an initiative to improve school attendance. In addition to stressing the importance of attendance when speaking to students, educators at some schools have even adopted catchy slogans and the like to drive the point home.
Cash said this initiative seems to be working already, as the county's average school attendance is now “about 96 percent districtwide.”
“We are really focusing on this, because students need to be at school to learn,” said Cash.
The county schools are also continuing to take a close look at their offerings geared toward career exploration.
Cash noted the school system already offers a variety of career and technical education opportunities and chances to earn college credits and industry certifications.
Among the plans for the coming year are for school leaders to continue talking with industry leaders about which job skills are most in-demand. Based on conversations thus far, Cash said the system may look to bolster its information technology, health science and logistics.
Educators with Bradley County Schools are also looking at ways to help high school students improve their ACT exam scores. According to the Tennessee State Report Card, the county's students had a composite score of 20.3 during the 2016-17 year, just slightly above the state average.
Cash said ACT prep is now "embedded" in middle and high school lessons, so that "every classroom is now focusing on ACT prep." Events referred to as "ACT boot camps" are also being offered to high schoolers who need help improving their scores.
The county schools director said working toward these and other goals will likely make for a great 2018.
“We’re looking forward to a great second half of the year,” Cash said. “We know our teachers and students will do well.”
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE