Loudon County educators prefer state's new student growth measures

By ERICA ESTEP-6 News Education Reporter

LOUDON (WATE) - Tennessee schools no longer have to meet federal benchmarks for student achievement. The state is one of 10 in the nation granted federal waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the waiver, Tennessee proposes to raise overall achievement by 3% to 5% each year and cut achievement gaps in half over an eight-year period.

Loudon High School history teacher Marvin Feezel is happy about the change in the way his students' growth will be measured. He thinks No Child Left Behind is unrealistic.

"All the students were treated the same without regards to their socio-economic backgrounds, to their home lives, to the resources available to them at their schools," he explained. "There's such a wide variety of challenges schools face."

"When you label a school as failing, it may be failing to fit into the box of what the government has deemed to be a successful school. But for that community, that school may actually be doing quite well for its children," Feezel added.

Tennessee's new system is called Common Core State Standards, and it will allow school districts the flexibility to design their own intervention programs.

Loudon County Director of Schools Jason Vance agrees with Feezel. "No all kids are not the same. Kids are different and we need to meet their individual needs. So I believe through this flexibility, we'll be able to assess where they're at and be able to provide an individual growth plan for each child."

Schools will still be held accountable for student growth to the state and ultimately to the federal government.

If what they've put in place isn't working, they could be forced to go back to the No Child Left Behind benchmarks.

Tennessee schools will no longer be labeled failing either.

There are new school categories. Reward schools will be the top 10% with the highest achievement or overall growth. Focus schools are the 10% of schools with the largest achievement gaps. Priority schools will be made up of the bottom 5% in academic performance statewide.