Carter County director of schools ‘pleased with where system is heading’

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, January 3, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler
Star Correspondent
Carter County Schools is heading in the right direction, said Dr. Brandon Carpenter, director of schools, in a release Tuesday, noting that a solid majority of the system’s schools received a B or C in the Tennessee Department of Education’s statewide school report card.

“The letter grading system issued by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) was designed to be a snapshot of individual schools according to the TDOE,” Carpenter said. “In Carter County, 80 percent of our schools received a letter B or C grade. I am pleased with where our system is heading, especially considering that the TDOE changed the grading system last minute.”

Carter County teachers returned to schools on Tuesday for an in-service day following winter break, while students are returning to class on Wednesday.

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“Carter County Schools will continue to focus on individual students and how we can prepare our students for post-secondary success,” he said. “It is also important to keep in mind that last year Carter County Schools increased student achievement at a historic rate.”

Carpenter cited among the system’s accomplishments:

— The system was labeled a Level 5 district for the second consecutive year. As measured by the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, a Level 5 indicates there has been above-standard academic growth.

— The system graduated 34 students with an associate’s degree or post-secondary certification.

— Carter County students received more than 350 industry certifications.

— The system’s ACT composite increased “nearly 2 points” and the graduation rate increased 6 percent over the previous year.

“Carter County Schools formed partnerships with post-secondary institutions that allowed our students to leave school with a career, not just a diploma,” Carpenter said. “These accomplishments detail the hard work and dedication that our students, faculty, and staff commit to daily, as they truly encompass our vision and commitment to education and future success.”

The state graded the individual Carter County schools as follows:
— Happy Valley Elementary, B, 4.3;

— Little Milligan, B, 4;

— Valley Forge Elementary, B, 4;

— Happy Valley Middle School, B, 3.9;

— Cloudland Elementary School, B, 3.7;

— Hunter Elementary, B, 3.7;

— Central Elementary, C, 3.3;

— Unaka High School, C, 3.2;

— Hampton High School, C, 2.9;

— Cloudland High School, C, 2.8;

— Unaka Elementary, C, 2.8;

— Keenburg Elementary, C, 2.7

— Happy Valley High School, D, 2.4;

— Hampton Elementary, D, 2.2; and

— Carter County Online Academy, D, 1.5;

Siam Learning Center was deemed ineligible for a letter grade.

In 2016, the General Assembly passed a law requiring every school to receive a letter grade: A, B, C, D, or F. The legislature mandated that achievement and growth be used in determining the grade, while the Department of Education was given leeway to determine other factors. Eventually, the grading system included student achievement as measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test; student academic growth by way of all students; student academic growth of the school’s highest-need students, those who rank among the bottom 25 percent based on achievements; and high schools are graded on college and career readiness, “based on how many graduating students succeed on measures like the ACT, college credit exams or opportunities, industry credentials, and military readiness.”

“School letter grades will provide Tennessee families with a clear rating system that gives them a snapshot of how their child’s school is performing,” Lizzette Reynolds, commissioner of education, said in a release prepared for school systems and posted on the state’s website. “No matter what your school’s letter grade is, everyone can play a role in supporting the success of our students and the success of our schools by engaging with your local school communities and joining the conversation.”

Knox County educator and Tennessee Education Association President Tanya T. Coats said in a release, “Tennessee already has school accountability in its comprehensive online report card system that is easily understood. Every Tennessee school lists achievement and growth on standardized tests, including subgroups like English Language Learners and students with disabilities. The system also reports other factors like absenteeism, graduation rates and college and career readiness among others – indicators not reflected in a single letter grade.

“It is insulting to students, parents, educators and communities to label our schools with a single letter grade weighted heavily on a flawed high-stakes standardized test,” Coats said. “It is impossible to capture the hard work of Tennessee students and educators with such a simplistic rating.”

For more details on an individual school’s grade, go online to the A-F Letter Grade Dashboard at