New Education Commissioner visits Hamilton County Schools
Posted on 03/08/2019
Dr. Schwinn at CSASNew Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn visited Hamilton County Schools over the last two days and talked with teachers and students about their hopes and dreams for the future and how we can all work together to prepare graduates for the future. She also attended her first meeting of the State Partnership Network where the state and school district are working together with the community to improve the performance of schools in the Opportunity Zone.

On Thursday, Commissioner Schwinn toured Clifton Hills Elementary in the Opportunity Zone, East Ridge Elementary in Missionary Ridge Learning Community, and Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences in the Rock Point Learning Community. Commissioner Schwinn met with a group of students at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS) to talk about the student viewpoint of education. The commissioner asked the student’s thoughts on state testing, their classes, and how school is preparing them for life after graduation. The students were eager to share their thoughts on testing and how the Department of Education may want to proceed with the administration of TNReady. The students and Schwinn engaged in a very spirited discussion that lasted well beyond the allotted time as the student representatives had many questions for the new commissioner and Schwinn was eager to hear what the students had to share with her.

Commissioner Schwinn shared that her goals in the first year are to develop a new strategic plan for the department as well as finding a new testing company to administer the TNReady testing program. The commissioner met with teaching and learning leaders from Hamilton County Schools, administrators from the Opportunity Zone and participated in the Partnership Network meeting Thursday night to round out a full day of activity.

The state is working with the local advisory board and leadership in the Opportunity Zone to raise achievement levels through the State Partnership Network. The Opportunity Zone leadership shared the goals of providing great teachers and leaders for children, powerful basic instruction, engaging hooks to grab the young learners interest and including the community in the schools to provide a supportive village to support learning. All of this provided with focus, consistency and a spirit of hope. Great teachers are exemplified in the 30 Opportunity Zone Model Teachers demonstrating effective teaching, tracking metrics of posted clear learning targets demonstrated their effect on learning in the classroom, and reading success experienced in partnership schools was shared on a chart. The chart showed a 13.5 percent increase in students performing on or above level in reading since August 2017. Just between August of 2018 and December 2018 students in the partnership schools performing on or above level in reading increased from 37.5 percent to 51 percent. State Partnership Schools include Brainerd High, Dalewood Middle, Orchard Knob Elementary, Orchard Knob Middle, and Woodmore Elementary.

On Friday, Commissioner Schwinn held a teacher roundtable discussion at Hixson High School in the North River Learning Community and toured Dalewood Middle and Orchard Knob Middle in the Opportunity Zone.

Photo: Dr. Penny Schwinn talks with Jimena Bravo Velasquez, and Taylor Bowles, both tenth-grade student at CSAS. CSAS Upper Principal Jim Bowles is in the background.