By Bethany Ward, Staff Writer–

Local District Officials announced on Wednesday, August 14th that Hamilton County Schools are making huge strides when it comes to academic achievement, and recently being rated a Level 5 district marks the highest recognition. 

Last year the county school system went from a Level 1 recognition to a Level 3 recognition and this year jumped from a Level 3 recognition to a Level 5.

“I don’t think there was a secret or magic behind it, I think it was doing the work,” said Dr. Justin Robertson, Chief Schools Officer. “When you get the teachers and students aligned to that clear learning target, the kids know exactly what it is that they’re supposed to understand.”

The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) determines the score the county receives by judging the academic growth of the students through benchmark assessment scores. Teachers’ effectiveness is judged by the progress of the students, not necessarily factoring in the various individual levels of knowledge.

Robertson went on to explain that the students responded really well to the clear learning targets set alongside the educational standards. From there, “making sure assessments aligned to those standards” was key, he explained.

“Benchmark assessments are at the end of each quarter… and [required] a little bit of an adjustment,” said Robertson. Once students and teachers got the hang of the process, things took off. “We weren’t really surprised by the results.”

After the announcement was made, the schools experienced a new level of energy and motivation. “Everyone’s extremely excited and proud,” Robertson said. “80% of the county teachers are satisfied or more than satisfied with their job, which breeds a good environment for the students.”

To ensure continued improvement, some adjustments have to be made going forward, Robertson explained.

“We’re really focusing on ensuring [that] in our English and language arts classes, the texts are on grade level.” Robertson continued on to say that “In all of our subjects we’re ensuring that assignments are on grade level.”

He credits the success to support from the community.

“We’ve had a lot of community support the last 18 months. It’s instilling confidence in the school system and opening opportunities for college and careers. When we talk about numbers, it’s important to recognize that behind those numbers are students.” 

The most important part of the landmark achievement made by Hamilton County Schools is that the educational improvements will open up career paths for students moving forward, Robertson said. 

The Hamilton County School System has an academically bright future ahead of it as students continue in their education. With the continued support of the students, faculty, parents, and the rest of the community, Chattanooga’s primary education system has the potential to deliver benefits to the larger community that have not been seen before.

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