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School board hears good news, bad news about local schools

Biridiana Bacerra-Rodriguez speaks to the Sequatchie County BOE about the marketing project she and Caleb Johnson (left) and Anna Kate Tibbs (right) prepared that won first-place regional honors in an FFA competition last month.

Jan. 8, 2019 – There was good news and bad news at the Jan. 7 meeting of the Sequatchie County Board of Education (BOE). The school system's after-school program got superior marks from a state monitor that visited last month, but reading proficiency and math performance at the lower grade levels is dismal.

Our strength is student growth, and our weakness is achievement,” according to Sarai Pierce, who serves as the school system's pre-K through 8th grade curriculum supervisor.

Pierce was reporting to the BOE on data from several different forms of evaluation. Math in the early grades is a serious weak link, she pointed out, and reading proficiency as measured by the “Star Test” declines from third grade through middle school.

The school system is above average in “growth,” however, which is a measurement of how well students performed academically when compared to computer models of how well they were expected to perform.

Sequatchie County was just one of 11 districts to receive a '5' in all tested areas,” Pierce reminded the board.

But then she went on to explain that in achievement the local schools were at or above state rankings in just 11 categories, while they scored below the state average in 18 categories.

In the online “Star” reading assessment, the percentage of Sequatchie County public school students that were reading at grade level were:

K – 58%

1 – 42%

2 – 61%

3 – 62%

4 – 56%

5 – 47%

6 – 36%

7 – 34%

8 – 38%

Director of Schools Pete Swafford said the early grades math achievement scores are “a real problem, but we're making progress.”

The good news was that a state Department of Education (DOE) examiner monitored the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) at Griffith Elementary and Sequatchie County Middle School and gave the program high marks.

After observing the before-school and after-school programs in December, he gave the Sequatchie County program “exemplary” status.

He said it was only the second time in his career he'd given exemplary practices status with no findings,” the program's administrator, Rhonda Harmon, told the school board. “And he said ours was better than the first one.”

At Monday night's meeting, the Sequatchie County Board of Education also heard from the high school's Future Farmers of America (FFA). The Sequatchie County High School FFA sent a team of three to present an agricultural marketing strategy at a regional competition and came away with first place honors.

FFA Advisor Sophie Hayhurst introduced Anna Kate Tibbs, Caleb Johnson, and Biridiana Bacerra-Rodriguez, and the students told the school board about their prize-winning marketing proposal for a hunting-and-fishing club.

On March 27 the team will travel to Gatlinburg to compete at the state level with their project.

In other business, the Sequatchie County BOE:

Board members Christy Vandergriff and Debbie Adams were absent from Monday's meeting. All votes were unanimous.

The next meeting of the Sequatchie County BOE is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. CST, at the school system's central office on Cordell Drive, Dunlap. All meetings are open to the public.