This is the third post in a six-part series recognizing the winners of the Tennessee’s Best and Alabama’s Best contests. Our previous posts featured Alabama’s Best runner-up Crestline Elementary and Tennessee’s Best runner-up Lauderdale County.
Teachers, principals, directors, board members, parents and community members may disagree about many things in public education. The one thing they can all agree on is the need for students to be successful in life beyond their K-12 years. Here again disagreements may arise over how best to achieve that success and how to recognize what success looks like.
Maury County Public Schools (MCPS) in Columbia, Tennessee has worked with all stakeholders (i.e., teachers, administrators, board members, parents, and community members) to guarantee that all students have access to high quality academic programs that will give them a great start on life. Maury County and their “Keys to College and Career Readiness” program were recognized by LEAN Frog and the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) as a Runner-up Winner in the Inaugural Tennessee’s Best Contest.
Developing the Keys
The 7 “Keys” to College and Career Readiness is a systemic and systematic alignment program ensuring that all 22 public schools within the system are working on academic success for all students. MCPS conducted data collection sessions with over 46 different groups comprised of students, parents, teachers, principals, bus drivers, businesses, the County Commission, school board members, Chambers of Commerce, and others. The goal was to get a better understanding of what students should know and be able to do by certain grades.
With a grand total of 9,327 responses (3,354 for elementary; 3,035 for middle school; 2,938 for high school), keys were identified for each grade level to help put students on the pathway to success–two keys each for elementary and middle school, and three for high school. The resulting 7 Keys ensured that all schools had academic objectives that were created with community input. The 7 Keys were introduced to the community at a press conference in January 2016. By May 2016, MCPS had already seen increases in performance on the keys.
Sustaining the Keys
Following the identification of the 7 Keys, teachers were asked what resources they needed to help more students meet the Keys each year. Principals and Central Office department heads presented these needs (backed with data) to the MCPS Board of Education. After board deliberation, the district budget was submitted to the County Commission for approval. The County Commission approved the budget and the Keys were funded. To safeguard long-term funding, MCPS has built a development worksheet tracking the resources needed and funding required to maintain or accelerate progress. Additionally, both the district and each school track students’ performance through scorecards that identify conditions for intervention as well as stretch targets.
Why we Like this Entry
There are many impressive facets of the 7 Keys. Here are just a few:
· The Keys ensure that all staff members know what to focus on and why.
· Involving teachers and principals in system-wide improvement increases morale.
· The collaborative way in which the 7 Keys were developed increases teacher, student, parent, and community buy-in.
· The data-driven decision-making for funding requests promotes transparency and trust: between staff and Central Office, between school board and County Commission, between school and city leadership and the larger community.
In short, the deliberately inclusive and systematic approach to developing and sustaining the 7 Keys helps MCPS foster student success. As Superintendent Dr. Chris Marczak remarked, “We have already started to see the fruits of our labor with the county and school board investing in the intentional education of children and are excited to see what the coming years bring for education in Maury County.” We are excited to see what the future holds for Maury County students as well.