Cleveland City School system administrators recently spoke at two state education conferences to share how their district managed across-the-board TCAP gains.
The scores released this summer revealed Cleveland met all of the state standards in every category. In addition, the school system showed higher growth than the overall state scores. Five of the 11 categories saw an increase of 5 percentage points or more.
These results earned the school system an invitation to present at the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents conference and the Tennessee Education LEADership conference.
Mayfield Principal Kelly Kiser said the increased performance started with a common vision adopted by the entire school system.
“I feel like from top to bottom in the city schools, from the director to the administration to the teachers and even the paraprofessionals involved, there is a vision for making our students successful,” Kiser said. “That is really what you need to have to drive an initiative that is across the schools.”
The initiative was twofold: give every school a common curriculum and use benchmark testing to identify problem areas of students.
“I think a lot of people are interested in how we put those pieces together and how we managed the people and the manpower to get all those pieces in alignment,” Kiser said.
Supervisor of Instruction K-12 Jeff Elliott explained the process was put in motion several years ago.
“If you look back on the road Cleveland City Schools have travelled down, there was a lot of vision by a lot of people several years ago,” Elliott said. “They laid the foundation for where we are today.”
Work initially began in the fall of 2011. Instructional facilitators began working behind-the-scenes on laying out a plan to reach standards. By spring, the facilitators were compiling curriculum for various grade levels.
Changes became apparent to teachers and students at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. The first wave of curriculum manuals were handed out to teachers. Students also began benchmark testing on a 4 1/2 week schedule.
The next wave of curriculum manuals for English Language Arts and Math standards were delivered to teachers over the summer. Testing is set to continue throughout the school system with one change. Capacity Trainer Melissa Bishop said elementary students have moved from the system-wide 4 1/2 week schedule to once every nine weeks.
Elliott explained the change at the elementary level allows the school system to incorporate some of the state initiatives. There are different tests laid out by the state which are instrumental as, “we bridge into the full 2014-15 implementation of state requirements for Common Core.”
Director of City Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff, Elliott, Kiser and Bishop have presented as a team at both conferences. Questions and comments from fellow educators have provided food for thought. The assessments, curriculum guides and general game plan are constantly being reevaluated for needed changes.
The goal is to make the district into a cohesive and academically successful unit.
“We lay it out a little at a time so we are consistent throughout the system, both with teachers and students,” Elliott said. “If we do have a transient rate with students transferring within our system, our goal is they will have the data and be getting the same instruction from one school to another.”
Added Elliott, “It has taken a lot of hard work, and that is the bottom line. Our teachers have been troopers, because it is a challenge. There is more on them than ever.”