Executive Summary and Profile Vision The Tuscaloosa County School System (TCSS) has a rich heritage of educational progress dating back to 1871. The system is governed by a seven-member elected board of education that is “committed to meeting the educational goals of all students in a safe, learning environment.” This mission of the system supports its vision, that students “Learn, Grow, and Achieve” in the Tuscaloosa County Schools. The major goal of the system is to facilitate strategies to encourage rigor and relevance in the curriculum and relationships among all stakeholders.
The Tuscaloosa County School System is the ninth largest in the state of Alabama. Though one of the largest systems in both population and area, it is also one of the lowest funded, with limited local tax support. Thirty-two schools, located throughout the county, provide community-based learning centers for students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through grade twelve. The system consists of 18 elementary schools, 8 middle schools, 6 high schools, and 1 regional education center. Two of the elementary schools contain grades pre-kindergarten through second grade and two serve students in grades three, four, and five. The remaining elementary schools contain students in pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade. Students in grades six through eight are served at the middle schools. All of the high schools contain grades nine through twelve. Ten of the elementary schools and one middle school receive Title I funding. The Sprayberry Regional Education Center serves students with special needs and also houses the system’s gifted program for grades three through five. The current enrollment in the 32 schools is 18,096 students.
In 2008, the system opened two new elementary schools and one middle school to relieve overcrowding in the southern, northern, and eastern school zones. This year, the system opened a new high school and middle school that share a campus. Because of population shifts, the system closed a middle school at the end of the 2009/2010 school year.
Demographics of the County Tuscaloosa County is the second largest county in the state with an area of 1,340 square miles. According to the US Census Bureau, the county has a population of 184,035 people. The school system reflects the demographics of the county, serving students in eleven communities.
The median age of the residents of Tuscaloosa County is 32 years. The county has 65,517 households of which 30 percent have children under the age of 18. The racial makeup of the county is 68 percent White, 30 percent Black, 1.3 percent Hispanic, and less than one percent other. The median income for a household in the county is $34,436 and the median income for a family is $45,485. Seventeen percent of the population lives under the line of poverty. Thirty-two percent are high school graduates, 16 percent have undergraduate degrees, and 12 percent attained graduate or professional degrees.
The workforce in Tuscaloosa County includes international businesses and industry such as Mercedes Benz International and JVC. Additionally, three institutions of higher education, two public school systems, and three medical facilities employ residents of the county.
Student Population The student population of the school system is reflective of Tuscaloosa County with an enrollment of 68 percent white students and 32 percent non-white students. The non-white population of the system includes 27 percent black students, 3 percent Hispanic students, and 2 percent other students. Currently, there are 15 languages spoken by the English Learners (EL) in the system.
Forty-five percent of the students in the system are eligible for free or reduced meals. In two of the Title I elementary schools, over 90 percent of the students qualify. In the 9 other Title I schools, student eligibility ranges from 80 percent to 47 percent. In the system’s only secondary Title I school, 75 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced meals.
Tuscaloosa County has 2,399 students currently receiving special education services as defined by the Alabama State Code. Early intervention is also provided for preschool students who qualify for special education services. Gifted education is provided for students in grades one and two through a consultative model in the general education classroom. Students in grades three, four, and five receive gifted services through a center-based model for five hours per week. Secondary students are provided gifted education in seminar and honors classes at their local schools. The system currently has 1,116 students eligible for gifted services.
Student Performance A school system must meet proficiency requirements in one of three grade spans (3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) in all indicators (reading, math, and additional academic indicator) in order to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). According to the Alabama State Department of Education’s Adequate Yearly Progress Report for 2010/2011, Tuscaloosa County made AYP in two components: mathematics and additional academic indicators. TCSS did not make AYP for the sub groups Special Education in Reading. Fourteen elementary schools, five middle schools, and three high schools in the system made AYP in reading and mathematics proficiency as well as additional academic indicators.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates that all students be proficient by the 2013/2014 school year. Baselines, or starting points, for AYP in reading and math for grades 4, 6, 8, and 11, were established with the classes of 2003/2004. The baselines for grades 3, 5, 7, and 8 were established in 2004/2005. The Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) will continue to escalate until they reach 100 percent in 2014. These benchmarks are based on the passing rates in both Reading and Mathematics on the Alabama Reading and Math Test in grades 3-8 (ARMT), the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE) in grade 11, and the attainment of Individual Education Plan (IEP) benchmarks on the Alabama Alternate Assessment (AAA) in grades 3-8 and 11). The additional academic indicator for elementary schools is the attendance rate and the graduation rate for high schools.
In Tuscaloosa County, the faculties, administrator, and board members realize that being committed to raising achievement levels must be about raising expectations for all children throughout the system. Currently, the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education is participating in The Lighthouse Project through the Alabama Association of School boards. Originating in Iowa, this project focuses on training school boards to become more actively involved in student achievement with the core belief that all students can learn. Across the system, teachers and administrators are implementing Continuous Improvement Plans (CIP) that utilize on-going assessments to monitor and enhance student progress. The Tuscaloosa County 2010/2011 AYP Accountability Report, based on 2009/2010 data, confirms our belief that if we offer our students an education of excellence, they will respond.
Under federal law, all designated school improvement schools receiving Title I funds, must provide parents of every student within their schools notification explaining the designation options for parents. Due to consistent academic improvement, no Title I schools within the Tuscaloosa County School System are designated in need of improvement.
Hillcrest High School, Holt High School, and Northside High School made AYP in all three components. Brookwood High School and Tuscaloosa County High School did not make AYP. Students at Brookwood High and Tuscaloosa County High were proficient in reading and mathematics. Tuscaloosa County High met 16 of their 17 goals and are in School Improvement Year 2 Delay and Brookwood High met 12 of their 13 goals. Holt High School, in School Improvement Year 3 Delay, met 100 percent of their goals and will be cleared from delay of AYP status is made for the 2010/2011 school year. The average ACT score for the system for the 2009/2010 school year was 20.
Collins Riverside Middle, Duncanville Middle, Echols Middle, Northside Middle, and Lloyd Wood Middle made AYP in all components for the 2010/2011 school year. Brookwood Middle, Davis-Emerson Middle, and Hillcrest Middle did not make AYP in the areas of Reading and/or Math.
Buhl Elementary, Crestmont Elementary, Faucett-Vestavia Elementary, Flatwoods, Elementary, Holt Elementary, Huntington Place Elementary, Lake View Elementary, Matthews Elementary, Maxwell Elementary, Myrtlewood Elementary, Northport Elementary, Vance Elementary, Walker Elementary, and Westwood Elementary made AYP in all components. Brookwood Elementary did not make AYP in the areas of Special Education Reading and Math. Cottondale Elementary did not make AYP in the sub group of Free/Reduced Lunch. Englewood Elementary and Taylorville Primary did not make AYP in the areas of Special Education Reading and Math.
Utilizing longitudinal test data and other academic indicators, school leadership teams across the school system continue to collaborate in horizontal and vertical groups to exceed the goals set by No Child Left Behind. The following charts illustrate such data for the Tuscaloosa County School System.
Major Trends Impacting the System The vision of the Tuscaloosa County School System is for all students to “Learn, Grow, and Achieve.” This vision was developed with collaboration from various stakeholder groups including parents, teachers, administrators, board members, and community members. The support of the school board for this vision is evidenced in several trends that are currently impacting the system. These trends include the following system and state initiatives.
The Alabama Association of School Boards’ Lighthouse Project, a two-year professional development commitment by board members that examines the relationship between school boards and high student achievement. The project is based on research by the Iowa Association of School Boards that compared districts with high levels of achievement to districts with low levels of achievement. The study indicated that “school boards in high-achieving districts are significantly different in their knowledge and beliefs than school boards in low-achieving districts.” The goal of the project is to use this study as a “lighthouse” to guide the
Board of Education in their efforts to improve student achievement. During the
limited to board members, teachers, administrators, community members, parents,
and central office leaders, has focused on instruction and identified the teacher as the
primary influence on student learning. This has the potential to change the culture
of the school system in the area of instruction and the professional growth of
educators, therefore, changing the achievement of students.
The Adopt-A-School Program is an initiative, supported by the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce for 25 years, which provides each school with at least one business partner. The business partners support the schools through funding for field trips, activities, incentives for students, tutoring, and various other ways.
A state initiative, The Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI), continues to impact instruction across the system. Each elementary school has a state funded reading coach who facilitates professional development, analyzes data, supports the school literacy efforts, and collaborates with the school system to make improvements in coaching, teaching, and student achievement. Additionally, the state Regional ARI Staff supports the implementation of the initiative in the system by providing literacy team training, content literacy training, and other professional development.
Professional development in the area of Strategic Teaching for secondary teachers is currently provided for two high schools in the system. Consultants from ARI are hired through Title II funding to provide the training.
Seventeen elementary and secondary schools participate in The Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI). The state provides extensive professional development in math and science which includes training in content and teaching methodology. Materials, including science kits and math manipulatives are provided for each teacher.
The N. Joyce Sellers Foundation for Excellence is a non-profit community organization whose primary mission is to provide private funding directly to the classroom. The foundation was renamed in honor of Dr. Joyce Sellers who served the system for 30 years and was the first woman to be named superintendent. The foundation provides educational opportunities for students through field trips, audio-visual equipment, and projects.
The Tuscaloosa County Aspiring Administrators’ Academy was launched in the 2009/2010 school year. The system initiative provides extensive training and experience, based on the Alabama Standards for Instructional Leaders, for 15 teachers who hold administrative certification but are not practicing administrators. Local school personnel and central office leaders provide the training.
The Holt Community Partnership is an initiative supported by the Alabama Consortium for Educational Renewal (ACER) to involve citizens in the improvement of education, safety, and unity in their community. Four schools in the system are located in the Holt school zone, including one high school, two elementary schools, and one middle school. Faculty members, central office personnel, students, and parents collaborate to work on community projects. Teaming among the 4 schools encourages a seamless transition across grade levels.
The Tuscaloosa County Reading Educators (T-CoRE) is a middle school professional learning group led by a local teacher and supported through Title II funding. The group of teachers meets monthly to study literacy instruction.
The use of technology as a learning tool, for the delivery of instruction, for school safety, and professional development is a major focus of the system. Several programs are utilized by the system to enhance learning for students including the Destiny Library Management system, New Century Learning, Renaissance Learning, IXL, STI Assessment, and others. Schools also use data projectors, interactive white boards, response pads, and document cameras to support instruction. The Credit Recovery Program provides instruction through a technology lab setting to students needing assistance with graduation requirements. Administrators are provided Blackberry or iPhone devices to enhance communication across the system. Several schools use video surveillance to assist with school safety. Professional development is supported through an online professional leave request program and some schools utilize PD 360, an online professional development program. Data management includes the STI student information program, the STI Assessment program, TMA Facility Work Order System, and online employment application, and the NextGen Financial System.
Career Technical Education is a vital component of the Tuscaloosa County School System, providing students with skills to prepare them for the workforce. The system has 37 career-technical education teachers within 14 middle and high school settings. The courses offered include agriscience, architecture and construction, cooperative education, health sciences, and family and consumer science. The program is enhanced through partnerships such as The Tuscaloosa County Career Technical Council, the Shelton State Community College Summer Technology Exploration Program, and TEACH Alabama, which includes courses related to teaching careers.
Growth patterns within Tuscaloosa County and the need for new construction is a major trend across the school system. The system opened two new elementary schools in the 2007/2008 school year and one new middle school. Because of shifting growth patterns, one middle school was closed at the end of the 2009/2010 school year. The system also opened one middle school and one high school at the beginning of the current school year.
Major Strengths The system’s strengths can be found in the areas of leadership, teacher quality, collaboration among stakeholders, challenging curriculum, and community support and partnerships. A major strength is teacher recruitment and support with 60 percent of certified employees holding Masters Degrees or higher. The system also provides National Board for Professional Teaching Standards support for teachers. In addition, mentor programs at the local schools provide teachers support.
A challenging curriculum, founded on the Alabama Course of Study, is also a strength of the system. Advanced placement courses produce high expectations of performance for students pursuing college. Career technical courses, as well as academic classes, set high expectations for students interested in business and industry fields. Curriculum guides, pacing guides, progress monitoring, and benchmark assessment support implementation of the curriculum. Continuous Improvement Plans at local schools drive the instructional process and support the system plan.
Through partnerships with business and industry, community service agencies, institutions of higher learning, and governmental agencies, the system is enhanced with community support and collegial relationships.
Needs Areas of need include continued financial planning in an environment of proration and reduced funding, continued improvement for student achievement in the subgroup of special education, implementation of practices for continued progress in reading and mathematics, and continued partnerships with students for increasing the graduation rate. Though the system has made progress to ensure that inclusive opportunities for students with special needs are provided throughout the district, further improvement is needed in this area.
Vision & Purpose STANDARD: The system establishes and communicates a shared purpose and direction for improving the performance of students and the effectiveness of the system. Impact Statement: A system is successful in meeting this standard when it commits to a purpose and direction that is shared system-wide. The leadership establishes expectations for student learning aligned with the system’s vision that is supported by system and school personnel and external stakeholders. These expectations serve as the focus for assessing student performance and district effectiveness. The system’s vision guides allocations of time and human, material, and fiscal resources.
Please indicate the degree to which the noted practices/processes are in place in the school system. The responses to the rubric should help the school system identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement as well as guide and inform the school system’s responses to the focus questions.