Oak Ridge Schools is proud to be a top public school system in Tennessee that successfully prepares students for colleges and careers. Oak Ridge Schools has had a long history of preparing top student performers and our students in 2017-2018 continued in that vein. For example, we had both a high school team and a team from Jefferson Middle School qualify to compete in the First Robotics World Competition in Houston, Texas. Our student Henry Shen was selected to be part of Team USA at the International Biology Olympiad. Oak Ridge High School won the regional Science Bowl competition. We had 168 industry certifications achieved last school year, including 58 in automotive service excellence. Not only do our students succeed in a great variety of Advanced Placement courses, but they also participate in dual enrollment courses, in which they receive college credit and high school credit simultaneously, in courses such as mechatronics, broadcasting, and health information technology. All of our K-12 schools achieved AdvancED STEM certification, making Oak Ridge Schools the first school district in Tennessee and the second in the world to be completely AdvancED STEM certified.
Oak Ridge students also continue to excel on the ACT. For example, for the 2017 graduating class, our students exceeded state and national averages in the composite score and in every subtest. Our students were especially strong in English, exceeding the national average by 1.5 points and the state average by 2.3 points. During the 2017-2018 school year, our freshmen students took the pre-ACT. They also exceeded the national average in the composite and in every subtest (there are not enough districts in Tennessee who administer the pre-ACT to have a state average). Our freshmen students were especially strong in reading, exceeding the national average by 1.6 points. As a whole, 61% of 2017-2018 freshmen were considered to be on target to be college ready in reading as measured by the pre-ACT. This data is further validated by our eighth grade ACT Aspire results on which we again exceeded national averages, particularly in English.
Regarding State of Tennessee TNReady and end of course exams, we must acknowledge the tumultuous atmosphere of state testing during the past three school years. Oak Ridge Schools successfully managed the logistics within our control during state testing. However, the assessment directions and infrastructure outside of the control of our school system led to a statewide tone that may have negatively influenced student performance and motivation in some grade levels and subject areas. Therefore, we consider our TNReady and end of course exams in that context in order to determine a true pattern of celebrations and challenges.
Starting with celebrations, our students taking U.S. history last school year outperformed the state by 13% and improved compared to the previous school year’s data. Oak Ridge Schools was in the top ten districts in both high school English and science; in fact, our high school science results exceeded the state average by 27.6%. Oak Ridge Schools’ results also exceeded the state’s results in grades 3-5 and grades 6-8 English Language Arts and science, and in high school math.
Oak Ridge Schools also had challenges that must be acknowledged. One challenge has been the transition to the new Tennessee State Standards in mathematics and the accompanying state math exam. Last school year, we conducted a systematic review of our mathematics program in response and we are working on incorporating our auditors’ recommendations into our mathematics program starting in the 2018-2019 school year.
Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10% or more school days, has been a great concern especially at Oak Ridge High School. Oak Ridge High School has had a “Strive for Five” initiative, asking students and families to strive to keep absences down to 5 or less during the course of the school year. Since having the “Strive for Five” initiative, Oak Ridge High School students have missed 7% fewer days of school; however, attendance is still a grave concern at the high school in that 41.4% of students missed more than 10 days of school during the 2017-2018 school year. The greatest attendance issue came from seniors; last school year, only 20% of Oak Ridge High School seniors met their “Strive for Five” goal. Problematic absences included both unexcused and excused absences. Students who are most negatively impacted by absenteeism are students who are already struggling in the classroom, but even the highest performing students are negatively impacted by excessive absenteeism. Missing school can not only harm student grades but can also harm student opportunities to earn credits, prepare for graduation, and prepare for post-secondary opportunities. Oak Ridge Schools encourages the entire community to support student attendance, including limiting non-urgent medical care to school breaks and after school hours, keeping family vacations during school breaks, and ensuring that student drivers come to school regularly and on time.
Oak Ridge Schools would like to acknowledge the great support that we receive from the Oak Ridge community. From volunteering in our classrooms, supporting the Oak Ridge Schools Education Foundation, attending our school events, providing resources for our economically disadvantaged students, and overall supporting our school system, we work and live in the best community in the State of Tennessee. With all of our continued emphasis on the importance of excellent public education, we know that we will have a great 2018-2019 school year.
Press release written by Tracey Beckendorf-Edou