North Middle School is finding ways to honor their teachers in hopes of boosting the school's Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program scores this year.
Rachel Johns, an eighth-grade math teacher, received the school's first Red Hot Award for having the highest percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced on the Discovery Education Assessment tests. The assessment gauges students' progress on certain subject areas throughout the school year in preparation for state testing each spring.
With TCAP testing next month, school administrators are feeling confident.
Assistant Principal Stephanie Smallen said Johns not only had the highest percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced on the assessment but also the highest growth rate among her students since the beginning of the school year.
"We hope it transfers over into the state testing which we think it will," Smallen said.
Students take three assessment tests throughout the school year to gauge TCAP readiness.
Math, as in other districts across the state, is a weak subject area for North Middle School. Smallen said only 38 percent of eighth graders scored proficient or higher on last year's TCAPs.
"One of our targeted areas was eighth grade math because (in) algebra, kids are not allowed to take the eighth-grade math test, so when you don't have your top 60 kids taking that test but taking an end-of-course test your numbers tend to look lower until the state combines the two scores together," Smallen said. "We can't double dip, so the top 60 kids take the algebra end-of-course test for high school credit, and the others take the eighth grade TCAP. So, it's harder when you take out your top 60 kids, who almost always are going to be proficient to advanced on that type of test."
On the last assessment test in February, 70 percent of the students scored proficient or advanced. Smallen said the assessments correlate with TCAP testing.
"It ... is just phenomenal, and then to have the highest growth rate from test one to test three is significant as well," she said.
"It's a good predictor of what our kids are going to score, so as an administrator when I see last year at the end of the year we were only 38 percent to where we are now in mid-March with 70 percent with the same type of students," Smallen said of Johns. "You've doubled your percentages, and that's just phenomenal coming in as a new teacher to a building. ... You don't have the top 60 kids in the building whereas all other buildings do have their top kids in there. That's pretty impressive from a data standpoint, so she's worked really hard, and the kids have too. We wanted to make a big deal out of it. We surprised her in one of her classes and made a big hoopla about it and really bragged on the kids and stuff. It's kind of a big deal for us."
Loudon County Director of Schools Jason Vance presented Johns with a certificate before spring break last week.
Vance said other county schools award their teachers in similar ways but recognition on a small scale goes a long way.
"She does have several students she teaches, and she is inspired to do well, and she is promoting her students to do well, then that certainly has trickling down effects on the district, but no matter what impact it had on the district I'm proud of the efforts she is making at North Middle School," Vance said. "We are blessed to have her. We think she is a champion."
Principal Mike Casteel said he believes the award adds friendly competition among the staff.
"Sometimes we forget to acknowledge how well our teachers are doing, and we just assume they are going to do it," he said. "They need a pat on the back and feel the love as well and sometimes that doesn't happen until after TCAPs. So we just felt we needed to recognize our folks with some little things as they were doing well in their jobs, just kind of team building, morale building gesture on our part."
Smallen, who came up with the idea for the award for Johns, said she wanted to offer more local incentives in hopes of boosting teacher and student morale at the school.
"It means they are on fire, so she was recognized," Smallen said about the meaning behind the award. "And then we gave all the kids an atomic fire ball because they were on fire and stuff. ... We want parents to be aware and the community to be aware that we are making huge strides."
Smallen is not dismissing the idea of rewarding more teachers later in the school year.
"It's something we want to continue. I want to reserve it for superior performance and excellence in achievement in students," Smallen said.
Johns is a first-year teacher at North Middle School. She comes to Loudon County Schools from Middle Tennessee.