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Memphis a pack leader in ‘reward’ schools

Memphis is leading the state....

If your first thought was to complete that fragment with a negative, then think again. In this case, the facts point to an embraceable positive.

Memphis is leading the state with the highest number (20) of "reward" schools. That would be schools with students who scored in the top five percent on end-of-year exams, and made the largest gains over three years.

For the record, those 20 schools are:

A. Maceo Walker, Alton Elementary, Campus School at the University of Memphis, Charjean Elementary, Craigmont Middle, Crump Elementary, Doubletree Elementary, Evans Elementary, Georgian Hills Middle, Hollis F. Price Middle College High at the LeMoyne-Owen College, Ida B. Wells Academy, Jackson Elementary, Kingsbury Middle, Middle College High, Newberry Elementary, Raineshaven Elementary, Raleigh-Bartlett Meadow Elementary, Ridgeway High, Shadowlawn Middle and Vollentine Elementary.

Four county schools – Dogwood Elementary, Ellendale Elementary, Lowrance Elementary and Shadowlawn Middle – are in the 'reward" category. Freedom Preparatory Academy is the only charter school in the city of Memphis included on the list.

Campus Elementary and Hollis F. Price were the two Memphis schools with scores that landed in the top 5 percent. In Germantown, Dogwood Elementary hit that mark.

Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman on Monday (Aug. 27) announced 169 schools as the 2011-12 "reward" schools. The schools are spread across 70 districts, located in major cities as well as rural areas, and 102 of the recognized schools serve mostly economically disadvantaged populations.

Many of the state's schools celebrated by tuning in for a special webcast featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Haslam, First Lady Crissy Haslam and Huffman.

"Tennessee is leading the way in education reform, and these schools demonstrate two key focuses of education in our state: high levels of achievement and continuous growth," Haslam said at an event held at Kenrose Elementary School in Brentwood.

"Job creation and education are inextricably linked, and continuing our momentum in education reform is important as we work to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. We are proud of the teachers and staff at each of these schools and excited to recognize their efforts on behalf of Tennessee students."

Tennessee has set out to become the fastest-improving educational system in the country by raising student performance each year. It was the first time the state has recognized Tennessee schools that have shown the most progress year-over-year alongside the schools with the highest achievement scores on statewide tests.

Nearly a quarter of the 169 schools on the Reward School list actually earned both designations. That means they rose to the top 5 percent for annual value-added growth while also ranking in the state's top 5 percent for overall achievement, according to a new accountability system adopted through Tennessee's No Child Left Behind waiver.

State officials said the 2011-12 "reward" schools' accomplishments came during a year that Tennessee saw unprecedented gains on the statewide Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP. As schools across the state made improvements and reached higher levels of proficiency, the 169 reward schools are said to have led the way.

Because Tennessee's new accountability system rewards growth and recognizes schools' varying baselines, every school in the state can strive for the Reward Schools designation.

"We believe that all students deserve strong schools where they can grow to high levels of achievement," Huffman said. "At the beginning of each year, every school in this state should know that they have a shot at becoming a Reward School."

(For a list of the schools, visit www.tn.gov/education/accountability.)

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