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Love Chapel, Unicoi schools named to state honors list

By Keeli Parkey
Staff Writer
[email protected]
Unicoi County’s Love Chapel and Unicoi elementary schools each earned a place on the Tennessee Reward Schools list.
Director of Schools Denise Brown announced last week that the schools were on the list of 169 schools, representing 70 school districts, to receive the honor.
“We are very excited that we have two schools that made the Reward Schools list. That’s the top five percent in the state,” Brown said in an interview on Friday. “There are thousands of schools in the state. To have two schools in our county in the top five percent is wonderful.”
A press release issued last week by the state noted that, “For the first time, the state has recognized Tennessee schools that have shown the most progress year-over-year alongside the schools with the highest achievement scores on statewide tests.”
Brown also said on Friday that no school in Unicoi County was included on the state’s list of Focus Schools and Priority Schools, released in August.
According to the state, Priority Schools are “the lowest-performing five percent of schools in Tennessee, in terms of academic achievement.” Focus Schools are “the 10 percent of school in the state with the largest achievement gaps between groups of students, such as racial and ethnic groups, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with disabilities and English-language learners.”
Eighty-three schools were designated as Priority Schools and 167 were designated as Focus Schools, according to figures released by the state.
“You have the top five percent, you have intermediate, then the state looks at the bottom five which are you focus and priority schools. We didn’t have any on that list,” Brown said. “So, our system was intermediate, which means that we’re not losing ground, we’re still making gains. These two schools [Unicoi Elementary and Love Chapel Elmentary] made gains above the three percent we are required to make.
“That speaks very highly of our teachers and students. And I think it speaks highly of what we have put in place with the new mandates from the Tennessee Diploma Project and Common Core, now,” Brown continued. “I’m very, very proud of them.”
Recent changes in curriculum mandated by the state have been embraced by the school system, its administrators and teachers, according to Brown.
“We have really looked at our curriculum since the start of the Tennessee Diploma Project because we had a huge change in standards at the state level. Now you have another huge change with Common Core coming. It’s been almost a constant change with curriculum for the past five years or more,” she said. “Any time you have change it’s hard. The teachers and administrators have embraced it. They’ve been great. I think the results for our system, and especially these two schools, shows that they step up to the plate, do what is expected and go above and beyond.”