New data released by the state Monday shows Knox County students are making progress, even when they're not quite reaching state objectives.
Every year the state sets individualized district goals and establishes expectations for improvement in each subject area and grade level.
New information on yearly tests, including TCAPs, shows Knox County reached those levels in nine out of 11 objectives.
"It's predominantly very good news," said Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre.
Those gains come four years after state-wide standard increases and McIntyre says the data shows the educational system was right to expect more of its students.
"When you look at the areas where were already sort of dipped our toes in to Common Core standards, you see some pretty significant increases in student achievement in those areas," said McIntyre. He says it bodes well for the future as the district prepares to fully implement Common Core next year.
The data shows strong gains in high school student's Algebra I and II end of course exams, posting 4.9 and 6.3 percentage point increases respectively. The district says proficiency in high school English I, II, and II increased as well.
However, McIntyre says the data also indicates where the district needs continued improvement.
For example, overall reading TCAP reading and language achievement levels decreased slightly compared to the prior year.
However, Dr. McIntyre says the district is especially proud of reaching state goals for third grade reading proficiency. Those numbers increased in the school year 2012-2013 by 2.3% for a total of 53.5% of students.
The district has made increasing third grade reading levels a district wide priority, because McIntyre says how a child reads at that age can impact the rest of their education.
"By the time you're in third grade, you're really reading to access information in other areas," said McIntyre. "In mathematics, in science, in social studies. And if you're struggling in reading then you're almost automatically going to be struggling in your other subject areas as well."
Two years ago, the state implemented new evaluation standards for all teachers, and McIntyre says he believes the positive gains Knox students may correlate, as more feedback and training leads to better teachers.
McIntyre says overall, they've received valuable data as the district heads into the final year of their five-year-strategic-plan. Next month, he says they'll begin soliciting community input on what goals to set for the next five years.
He says he expects the renewed focus to go from "excellence for all children," to "excellence for every child," with the emphasis going to increasing more individualized educational experiences, especially for underachieving children.
Editors note: this web story inaccurately reported that third grade reading proficiency did not meet state expectations. That was incorrect.