Innovator to Share Tools for Turning Around Low-Performing Schools at Chattanooga 2.0 Talk

By Kendi Anderson, Chattanooga Times Free Press, June 1, 2016

All of this can be replicated. Change can also happen in here in Chattanooga.
– Tiffany Anderson

The Jennings, Mo., school district does not look like it did five years ago before Tiffany Anderson arrived.

Anderson has been leading the Jennings school system as superintendent for four years, and by implementing innovative solutions and creating a community-school model, she is showing that students in this low-income town near St. Louis can reach success.

Anderson is coming to Chattanooga on Thursday to talk about the tools she’s used to turn around low-performing schools.

“All of this can be replicated,” Anderson said. “Change can also happen in here in Chattanooga.”

Thursday night’s talk is a part of the Chattanooga 2.0 speaker series. Chattanooga 2.0 is working to improve the state of public education and workforce development, and Anderson said it’s encouraging to see a community eager to get involved in improving schools.

Jared Bigham, director of Chattanooga 2.0, said groups of parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders who are working with the initiative have made it clear that improving outcomes for students in poverty is a priority for the county.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to learn from Dr. Anderson’s success in turning around high-poverty schools,” Bigham said. “We hope that her talk will help spark even more dialogue and ideas about what we can do in Chattanooga to improve educational opportunities for all students.”

Anderson said a huge asset to the school improvement work she’s been a part of in Jennings involves community partnerships.

“All segments of the community have a responsibility to invest in their local education system,” she said. “It’s in the community’s best interest to invest in their school system and understand the challenges and the role they can play to overcome those challenges.”

In Jennings, Anderson has worked with the community to implement a community-school model. She commonly says, “You make it to school and we’ll do the rest.” Her schools have laundromats, pediatricians, a food bank and mental health specialists.

And the work has paid off, as the school system’s academic achievement has soared, and last year 92 percent of high school students graduated on time and 78 percent of those graduates had enrolled in the military or post-secondary training within six months of graduation, according to state data collected by the Washington Post.

“Jennings is a story of possibility and hope,” Anderson said.