When Chattanooga 2.0 was launched, we faced a steep challenge to ensure every child in Hamilton County would have a high-quality education and real opportunity for college and career. Our 2016 report outlined 10 priority areas with metrics to track progress over the coming years, with two bold goals: double the number of post-secondary degrees or credentials completed by Hamilton County graduates each year and double the percentage of adults in Hamilton County with a college degree or technical training certificate by 2025.
Three years later, we have made great progress, but there is still much work to be done.
Looking to where we started and where we still have to go, there is great hope and promise in the progress we have made in K-12 education with two years of Supt. Johnson’s leadership. For the first time in five years, graduation rates are on the rise. New schools are under construction, promising innovations are taking place, and 25 of our schools received the highest marks for growth, which is significant progress toward Hamilton County’s goal of becoming the fastest improving school district in the state.
Listening. During community conversations with each of Hamilton County’s learning communities, Supt. Johnson heard directly from students, parents, and teachers and turned their feedback into an action plan called Future Ready 2023! With five areas of action, including accelerating student achievement, cultivating an engaged community, preparing students for college and career, and recruiting, developing, and retaining great teachers and leaders in our schools.
Measuring. Future Ready 2023! sets measurable goals to track the progress of our schools and our students each year. Detailed baseline and target metrics provide an overall view of how effective new administration policies, resources, and classroom-level guidance are. As an example, 39.9% of our third-graders are now reading on grade-level. Supt. Johnson has set measurable goals for 50% of third-graders to read on grade-level by 2023. As Jenny Hill, District 6 school board member, said in the May 9 budget discussion, we all want that number to be 100%, and we can get there if we continue to double down on our support and work to fulfill our promise to all Hamilton County students.
Rolling up our sleeves. The work has already begun. Supt. Johnson continues to restructure the Central Office to maximize efficiency and provide our schools with effective leadership. Future Ready Institutes are bringing industry into our schools like never before to prepare our future workforce. Camp K has grown in enrollment and is set for a second year of preparing rising Kindergarteners and their families for success in the classroom. New policies and resources are improving opportunities for our special education students. The list goes on…
This new leadership in Hamilton County Schools has become a critical piece to bringing the progress we first envisioned in the Chattanooga 2.0 report to fruition. And the work is only getting started. It’s our responsibility – as parents, as businesses, as community members – to work alongside Supt. Johnson so that our students succeed and ultimately Hamilton County succeeds.
Thank you to Supt. Johnson, his administration, and all the teachers, staff and volunteers who work each day to improve our schools, provide every child in Hamilton County with the opportunity for success, and make Chattanooga the smartest community in the South.
Molly Blankenship is the Interim Executive Director of Chattanooga 2.0 and Vice President of Talent Initiatives for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.