JELLICO, TN (WLAF) – After falling into “priority school status”, Jellico Elementary has been implementing multiple changes over the last year to boost not only test scores, but the overall morale of the school. According to school superintendent Jennifer Fields, it is a “success story that deserves to be recognized” Fields said she felt the public should know of the improvement and the teachers should feel proud of the “fruits of their labor.”
The year’s worth of hard work has paid off in higher student engagement, better test scores and much more.
When Kenneth Chadwell became principal in 2018, he said he was “shocked at how distressed the place was with its dark cinder block walls, inadequate lighting and overall lack of vibrancy.”
“Even more than the low test scores or the outdated practices, the school had no heart. It had lost its way, its soul, its purpose. Teachers weren’t happy, students looked defeated, and everyone was just going through the motions,” Chadwell said.
Chadwell and assistant principal Jason James began tackling the problem, first with new paint and better lighting and the removal of old equipment that had been stored in classrooms. This brightened the overall aspect of the building. Next, the pair began having “friendly chats with the teachers, making sure the students overheard.” “We found things that we could praise teachers, students and staff for. As this continued, so did improvement in the culture,” Chadwell said.
McRel International was also partnered with the school to help implement more improvements. Assistant principal Jason James, along with instructional coaches Amy Davis and Tammy Baird “amplified Chadwell’s Choose your attitude approach.” The faculty and staff began to organize team building efforts with after school potluck dinners.
After consulting with school and district leaders, McRel proposed several capacity building initiatives based on the strategic plan of creating an environment for learning. Part of this process included three school wide professional learning days focused on student engagement, learning communities and high expectations of students and educators. The program also included “teacher rounds” where teachers “observed, discussed and learned from one another’s practices”. Other learning and analysis services provided by the company included support for literacy specialists teaching phonics and guided reading to kindergarten through second grade teachers.
As a result of all these changes, Jellico elementary student attendance is “surging” and the school’s performance on standardized tests is “outpacing peer groups.” According to McRel, more improvement will be needed before the school is taken off the priority list, but the school is “on the right track.”
Now that English scores are on the rise, the next focus will be “fine tuning Jellico’s math instructional practices.” According to school officials, the improvements are a “testament to the faculty’s hard work.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 04/10/2020-6AM)