The school system, in collaboration with Cleveland City Schools, is one of 28 recipients nationwide to be awarded the grant and the only system in Tennessee to receive an award. This grant has the potential of continuation for five years with additional funding after the second year for a total award of approximately $6 million.
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded nearly $100 million overall to help state and local efforts to reform high schools and improve academic performance and educational outcomes of students.
“This grant is the culmination of a ‘dream’ which I envisioned when I first became principal at Bradley Central High School in 2007,” said Johnny McDaniel, director of Bradley County Schools.
“I wanted to do what was right for all students and provide the best possible opportunities to have them college- and career-ready for the 21st Century. This award is in recognition of the hard work and commitment which Bradley County Schools has already made to implement innovative, creative, and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking in regards to high school reform.”
DREAM stands for Data-driven, Rigorous, Enriching, Advising, and Mentoring – to help students “DREAM big” and achieve ambitious college and career goals. The grant will fund the DREAM program at Bradley Central, Walker Valley and Cleveland high schools. Their collaboration effort produced a stronger grant proposal which will serve all the students in the county.
The district capitalized on the distinct differences in the three schools to develop a proposal that could meet needs existing for all students within Bradley County.
“We are excited about the opportunity for Cleveland High School to partner with both high schools in Bradley County,” said Dr. Rick Denning, director of Cleveland City Schools.
“Our vision is to develop and implement strategies to include parents, business representatives, local (colleges and universities), and the community,” said Denning.
The Smaller Learning Communities concept addresses the needs of larger high schools (1,000 students or more) to create groups of students and faculty that are smaller and more personal. Bradley County Schools had already initiated this concept two years prior with the establishment of freshman academies at Bradley Central and Walker Valley. A freshman academy has also been established at Cleveland High School. “This additional funding source will allow us to implement programs that we could only dream about when we first began the smaller learning communities. This is a boost for our students toward a level of excellence,” McDaniel said.
The focus of reform has already been expanded with sophomore academies at Bradley Central and Walker Valley. These academies allow teachers the opportunity to get to know the students better and to follow student academic progress in a more personal way. The academies have a separate physical space and incorporate transition-support activities, common planning time for teachers, and academic enrichment for at-risk groups.
“The world of education is a forever moving target, but the primary goal remains constant as we strive to set our students up for success. The goal is to increase the academic achievement of all students by enabling them to be successful and reach their full potential,” said Denning. “We believe the SLC Grant is a vehicle to help us achieve our goals and foster student success. This comes at an exciting time when schools in the state of Tennessee are a part of Race to the Top, and we are preparing students to be college and career ready.”
Future academies at the local high schools will include career academies, an international baccalaureate program and other smaller learning communities to meet the individual needs of each high school.
As part of the DREAM program, teachers will receive rigorous professional development and more opportunities for common planning time which will include the creation of Professional Learning Communities.
“The SLC Grant will provide many opportunities to improve the learning process for our students and the teaching process for our teachers,” said Walker Valley High School principal Danny Coggin.
“Walker Valley High School is excited about the opportunities this grant will provide for our students. When you provide a better education for your students, you also provide a better educated workforce for the future. With this grant comes a better educational foundation for the students of Bradley County who will be competing for jobs with people from around the world,” said Coggin.
Cleveland High School will also continue efforts already in place including the expansion of its academic academies and utilization of a graduation coach, in addition to implementing transitional coaches for ninth- and tenth-graders.
“This grant does not just impact high school students in our area, but will leave a greater mark on our community,” said Autumn O’Bryan, principal of Cleveland High School.
“This grant comes at a time when expectations have been raised in the classroom, and with this grant we will be able to provide the support needed for teachers and students,” O’Bryan said.
Both school districts will be working with the International Center for Leadership in Education. Other key strategies will include increasing parent involvement where parents will participate in the development of individual graduation plans with their student, college/career planning and freshman transition. Students will participate in college visits and be encouraged to take a more rigorous academic program with the end result of our students making a seamless transition from high school to college or some type of post-secondary training.
“This is a very exciting time for Bradley Central High School. The grant will help us with our continued efforts to build our smaller learning communities,” said Todd Shoemaker, Principal of Bradley Central High School.
“The grant will not only be used to help improve academics but offer academic interventions, assist with teacher professional development, and prepare students for postsecondary training. Our teachers are thrilled to be able to explore new ways to engage our high school students and help them focus on their special interests as they prepare to embark into college and career,” Shoemaker said.
McDaniel praised Patti Hunt, Bradley County Schools NCLB compliance coordinator, for her outstanding efforts to coordinate the grant proposal.
“Collaboration between Bradley County Schools and Cleveland City Schools has been and will be at the heart of the DREAM program. We look forward to the immediate implementation of the DREAM program at all three high schools,” Hunt said.
Dan Glasscock, Bradley County supervisor of secondary education concluded, “I am proud of the steps our high schools have already initiated to engage our high school students; however, the SLC grant will help us to develop and implement strategies and systems aimed at improving academic achievement, increasing the graduation rate, and ensuring success ‘beyond the diploma’.”