Jim Folts Blount County Commissioner
“To stand in silence, when they should be
protesting, makes cowards out of men” - Abraham
Special Report - Good News from Our Blount County Schools
Did you know the rate of improvement in academic achievement in our County schools is now nearly identical to the Alcoa and Maryville schools? This is even more impressive when you realize Maryville and Alcoa spend significantly more money per student than the County.
Unfortunately, the people running our school systems have not always spent enough time measuring results. Many in our community, and communities all over the country, have the impression that our school administrators simply throw money at problems, with little concern for the effectiveness of those investments.
The good news is a new culture seems to be developing in our Blount County school system. The academic achievements of each child are being carefully and constantly measured. Actions are being taken based on those measurements. Successful programs are being expanded, and unsuccessful ones are being fixed.
School Superintendent, Dr. Rob Britt, is the driving force behind this accountability. He is measuring academic performance by child, by subject, by grade, by school, and by year. He is comparing the Blount County school system with eight other similar school systems in the state. He is measuring the amount of money each system spends versus the academic improvements being produced by each system.
Here are just a
few of the high points. In the comparison
of our Blount County Schools with the
eight other counties, Blount ranked third
in overall academic improvement in 2011.
Blount County was in the top half of the
comparison group in Math, Science, and
Social Studies. The Blount County high
school graduation rate has improved by
more than four percentage points in two
A number of teachers in the County are taking a lead role in using technology to improve education. These teachers have spent lots of their own time learning about the latest educational hardware and software. Most important, they have figured out how to use these new developments to excite and improve the performance of their students. They are using cameras to project textbook pages on interactive whiteboards, where students can point and click their way to problem solutions. (Yes point and click seems to have entered the DNA. Most six year olds can find their way around a computer screen, or interactive white board, better than most 60 year olds). Our teachers are accessing learning programs via the internet and projecting these exercises on the interactive whiteboards to make the students’ learning experience engaging and exciting. These teachers have also been very creative in obtaining the necessary equipment, in many cases finding private funding sources, when taxpayer funds have not been available.
The results in our elementary and middle schools are particularly impressive with many classes demonstrating significant improved proficiency in reading, math and science from 2010 to 2011. The improvements are not confined to just a few schools. Among our elementary schools, Townsend, Carpenters, Union Grove, Middlesettlements, Lanier, Rockford, and Porter are delivering impressive results. The leaders among our middle schools are Union Grove, Carpenters and Heritage.
Dr. Britt is the
first to point out that there is much more
work to be done. For example, Blount’s
performance in Reading/Language Arts was
seventh out of the nine comparison
systems. Blount's high school ACT test
scores were sixth out of the nine systems.
Dr. Britt and his team have set goals that
could make Blount first among its peers.
They are hard at work identifying and
implementing actions to make this goal a
The rigorous measurement discipline being applied by Dr. Britt, and his dedicated team of administrators and teachers, are producing results. He has detailed all these efforts in a presentation consisting of eighty-two slides. He ran through it, very quickly, at the February Commission Agenda meeting. The Commission should have taken more time to consider it. The parents and citizens of our community should take a look at these positive developments. Yes, it is a lot of information. But, if you believe that education is vital to the ability of our County, and our country, to compete in the future, it is a ‘must-see’. Considering inviting Dr. Britt to give his presentation to your civic, educational, or church group. It will be well worth your time.
PLEASE come to the Commission meeting Thursday, April 19th at 7:00pm in Room 430 of the Courthouse