The Hunter Report

Raising the Bar -



Large turnout of parents, students, residents at Ft. Loudon Middle School.

...lets all get together and go in one direction and get there at the same time.- Director Honeycutt.

By: Pat Hunter

August 21, 2008

Parents from Ft Loudon Middle School will have to decide from among two options for the upcoming school year. They can remain at their school, despite failing grades or they may transfer to another public school with a passing grade.

According to the Tennessee Department of education website, "Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), schools and school districts are measured on whether the students meet performance benchmarks in math, reading and attendance for grades 3-8 and math, English and graduation rate for high schools. Schools that do not meet the achievement standards for two years are deemed high priority." Click to view pdf files. High Priority Schools 2008-2009 List - Ft. Loudon Middle School and Greenback School. High Priority Schools 2008-2009 -landscape mode. Source: Tennessee Department of Education.

Ft. Loudon school personnel and key Central Office staff met with parents and students at a school event held at Ft. Loudon Middle School on Thursday, August 21. The crowd was friendly but many parents expressed concerns about test scores. School personnel were gracious, attentive, helpful and friendly.

Several school administrators were present including Gil Luttrell, assistant school director, Sissy Foster, Special Education Supervisor, Kathy Greene, K-5 Supervisor, Kim McGimsey, Instructional Support Supervisor, Jason Vance, Secondary Supervisor and School Director Wayne Honeycutt.

Director Honeycutt was tardy for the meeting but he apologized. He was at another meeting and then he couldn't find a parking space due to the big turnout.

Honeycutt's message was short and sweet, "We need your support, we need your help, we're going to work with you so lets all get together and go in one direction and get there at the same time."

Jason Vance followed with a Power Point presentation. Vance gave examples of past success stories of student achievers. He also described changes in curriculum and high school requirements. “All students entering high school next year and the years after will be required to meet these requirements to earn a high school diploma.”

One of Vance's Power Point slides described “Innovative changes to address school improvement status at FLMS:

n     Target students not making proficient scores on math t-cap last school year by providing additional math intervention.

n     Utilize computer-based instructional programs that work on improving test scores (Skills Tutor, River Deep).

n     Use extended contract teachers to provide additional tutoring during morning and afternoon bus duty for students that show deficits based on TCAP data.”

One big disappointment was that Central Office administrators did not bother to schedule a period during Thursday's meeting so school administrators could openly discuss parent questions and concerns about the failing grades problem. If educators want to involve parents in the process, a frank open discussion was an important first step toward achieving this goal.

Light beverages and cookies were served. Visitors had an opportunity to tour the classrooms and facility, as well as, speak to teachers or staff. 

No school board members were present.


NOTE: The article below is by Mr. Willett, reporter for the Knoxville News. The article  addresses some of the issues facing parents of students. Ms. Wendy Baustian, PTO president of Loudon Elementary, expressed her views and concerns about her child's education.    


Some Loudon students may leave schools

Transfers offered to those at two with deficiencies

Parents at two Loudon County schools have been informed that they have the option to transfer their children to other county schools because of performance deficiencies identified under state and federal guidelines.

Greenback High School and Fort Loudon Middle School were targeted as "high priority" under the Tennessee Department of Education's No Child Left Behind program, which specifies performance targets for schools under the Title 1 category, said Kim McGimsey, federal program director for the Loudon County schools.

Seven out of nine Loudon County schools are listed under the Title 1 classification, which is based on economic factors, including the percentage of children in the school who are receiving free or reduced-cost meals, McGimsey said.

Greenback High School was cited for low graduation rates and Fort Loudoun Middle School for low scores in mathematics. None of the other schools in the county was targeted, she said.

"This is the first time Loudon County schools have been targeted under the program," McGimsey said.

Parents, who were notified in a letter from the school department Aug. 7, have the choice of sending their children to another school in the district. The county will pay the cost of transportation to the alternate schools.

Greenback was targeted because its graduation rate in 2007 of 89.2 percent was just beneath the target of 89.5 percent. The school had improved from a graduation rate of 86.5 percent in 2006 but dropped from the 2005 rate of 90 percent.

"Greenback was targeted because they were below the goal for two years in a row," McGimsey said. "It takes two years of underperformance to get on the list, and it takes two years of meeting the goal to get off the list."

The low graduation rate at Greenback is something of a statistical anomaly, according to Lisa Russell, school board representative from Greenback who has children in the school.

The small number of high school-age students in the school - estimated at just more than 200 - means every child has a large impact on the numbers.

"They say we missed the mark by three-tenths of 1 percent. That's not even one student," Russell said.

According to McGimsey, none of the Greenback parents has contacted the central office to say they want to take advantage of the opportunity to move to Loudon County High School.

At Fort Loudoun Middle School, math proficiency increased from 75 percent to 80 percent between 2005 and 2007 but fell below the target of 86 percent, McGimsey said.

The middle school parents have the option of moving their children to Philadelphia School, which posted scores of 96 percent proficiency in 2007, or North Middle School, which also posted a 96 percent proficiency in math. So far, only four parents have requested the transfer, McGimsey said.

Loudon Elementary School PTO president Wendy Baustian said she is not satisfied with the math progress at the middle school.

Baustian said her daughter is zoned for Fort Loudoun Middle School next year but that she's not sure she will take the chance her child will not continue to excel in math.

"Her strongest subject is math. I would be a fool if I put her in a school where she doesn't have every option to succeed," Baustian said.

But the removal from the school of students who excel in math will actually make it harder for the school to achieve its math goals in the future, McGimsey said. On the plus side, targeting under Title 1 allows the schools to apply for grants that will be used to help improve the program for underachieving students, she added.




updated 08-23-08