Better Grades for Knox County Schools

The State Report Card released on Jan. 7 held good news for Knox County Schools. At a news conference at Austin-East High School, Superintendent Jim McIntyre highlighted the gains:

• A 5.2 percent rise in the school system's four-year graduation rate, to 86.6 percent. This was partly due to a change in methodology, but even without that McIntyre said there would have been a 3.4 percent rise.

• The improvement of several schools' performances on state tests, allowing them to qualify for the state's "Good Standing" designation after having been previously marked as struggling. They are East Knox County, Mooreland Heights, South Knoxville, and Spring Hill elementary schools; Bearden, Karns, and Powell middle schools; and Karns and West high schools.

• And several other schools showed improvement even though they are still on the state's watch list. Those included Austin-East, which has been designated for "reconstitution" by the state, meaning it could be taken over by the state Department of Education. But A-E met state standards for "Adequate Yearly Progress" in its "leading indicator" areas of reading and language arts, which McIntyre said makes it likely the state will wait to see if improvements continue. Two straight years of those results could move it off the reconstitution list.

On the other hand, the system as a whole slipped down the state's scale from "Targeted" to "High Priority," because of ongoing struggles to improve results in several areas. Those include reading scores for special-education students and math scores for K-8 African-American students.