TDOE Announces School Designations For 2020-21 School Year

Nearly 200 Schools Across Tennessee Earned Designation For Gains In Student Growth

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Tennessee Department of Education on Tuesday announced the school designations for the 2020-21 school year, which include the top five percent of schools for academic achievement and the top five percent for student growth, including 188 schools spanning 61 districts statewide. 

In addition to recognizing Reward schools, the department also named schools that have improved and earned their way off of the Priority list. Priority schools, federally known as Comprehensive Support and Improvement schools, were identified for poor academic performance at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. Focus schools, which are either Targeted Support and Improvement or Additional Targeted Support and Improvement, could also exit if they met the respective exit criteria.  

The complete list of Reward schools and schools exiting Priority or Focus status is posted on the department's website

"These schools have shown how Tennessee districts and schools can overcome a variety of challenges including a global pandemic that impacted the past several months, including the majority of the 2020-21 school year," said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. "During these difficult times, the department continues to celebrate the hard work of our districts, educators, and students across the state." 

Public Chapter 2 of the First Extraordinary Session of the 112th General Assembly amended laws regarding school and district accountability which offer the opportunity to remove negative consequences associated with accountability for the 2020-21 school year. This includes using student performance or student growth data from the 2020-21 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program administration to assign letter grades, or assigning summative ratings for schools eligible for accountability protections in the 2020-21 State Report Card.   

In accordance with PC 2, since all districts achieved a minimum 80 percent participation rate on the 2020-21 TCAP assessments, all districts are held harmless for the 2020-21 school year. In other words, districts and schools will not use student achievement and student growth data to assign letter grades or any other summative ratings in the 2021 State Report Card, which will be released later in September. These data will not be used to identify Priority schools, nor to assign a school to the ASD. LEAs will still be responsible for performance goals, even though performance goals will not be determined using student achievement or student growth data from 2020-21 TCAP assessments.  

“Held harmless” refers to schools and school districts for whom student performance and student growth data from the 2020-21 school year cannot be used to assign letter grades or any other summative ratings in the 2021 state report card. These data also cannot be used to identify a school as a priority school, nor to assign a school to the Achievement School District.

For the 2020-21 school year, schools earned Reward status based on the most recent year of data.  Schools that are held harmless can still earn Reward School status, even if they do not have a letter grade assigned.  

These districts are designated as Exemplary: 

Maryville City Schools  
South Carroll Special School District  
Newport City Schools   
Alamo City Schools  
Bradford Special School District  
Gibson County Special School District  
Lincoln County Schools   

“Newport City Schools is so proud of Newport Grammar School for earning the distinction of being a reward school,” said Sandra Burchette, director of Schools, Newport City Schools. “We are grateful for the hard work of the district and schools leaders, educators, families and students who remained strong and positive and while taking great steps to mitigate the disruptions created by the pandemic. With such great performance during a challenging school year, we are optimistic that the future is bright for our district as we continue to focus on using this data to boost our students' into the future.” 

“Despite the significant challenges faced by teachers, administrators, and other personnel during the 2020-2021 school year, the TCAP assessment demonstrated many successes by our schools and students,” said Dr. David Snowden, director of Schools, Franklin Special School District. “We are extremely proud of the phenomenal work accomplished by our teachers who had to be extremely creative and resolute in their teaching methodologies and strategies as they worked in environments that had been totally foreign in years past. The continued focus on the teaching and learning process remained paramount even when their days were filled with a great amount of uncertainty.” 

“At HCS, we expect excellence in achievement and growth so that all children thrive,” said Dr. Nakia Towns, interim superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “We are extremely proud of our students and teachers for this historic accomplishment. We’ve made great strides in four years, and we look forward to continuing to accelerate our progress as we work toward achieving our Future Ready 2023 goals.” 

PC 2 allows for Priority schools to have the designation removed upon meeting both exit criteria and the requirements to be held harmless. In addition, Focus schools, which are either Targeted Support and Improvement or Additional Targeted Support and Improvement, could also exit if they met the respective exit criteria.

For the 2020-21 school year, Tennessee had the largest number of schools exiting Priority, Focus, and ATSI status in the state’s history, including: 

Seven of the 79 Priority schools from five of the eight districts with Priority schools met the exit criteria 

18 of the 37 ATSI schools from 12 of the 17 districts with ATSI school met ATSI exit criteria 

108 of the 145 TSI schools from 57 of the 61 districts with TSI schools met TSI exit criteria 

These preliminary designations are available on the department’s accountability page and will be presented to the State Board of Education for approval at the Oct. 29 Board quarterly meeting.  


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