Ten Knox Schools "High Priority" for Improvements

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Ten schools in Knox County have not met President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" standards.

The State Department of Education released its findings Monday morning

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford takes a look into which Knox County schools are on the list, and why.

Problems with dropouts and literacy are why the ten Knox County schools made the list.

Austin-East Magnet High School is highest on the list, with the risk of shutting down if they don't shape up.

"If they slip back, it counts against them,” Dr. Donna Wright, Knox County's Assistant School Superintendent for curriculum and instruction, says Austin-East Magnet High School is ranked fourth out of six steps for schools that don't make yearly progress under "No Child Left Behind."

Corrective options include make it a charter school, replace the staff or contract with private management.

"We must have a plan showing what we're going to do to make dramatic improvement at that school,” says Dr. Wright.

Wright says they have the entire school year to come up with a plan.

"It doesn't happen overnight," she explains. "We want to really work on the progress that's being made and move it even further."

"They've got a lot of work to do," Owner of Ideal Cleaners, Bud Watson, has been watching students from his business next to Austin East High since 1981. "They'd go drink out here at eight o'clock in the morning, smoke pot, climb in a car and leave, and the parents thinking that they're in school."

Watson says he's not surprised that Austin East had a 2006 graduation rate of about 69 percent, not meeting the projected 75 percent. "They don't want to go to school. They're just not interested."

Also on the list is Fulton High and Northwest Middle School, with recommendations to replace the staff, create a new curriculum, significantly decrease current management, or bring in an outside expert.

"It's a brand new slate,” says Dr. Wright.

Central High and Dogwood Elementary placed second on the list for school improvement.

Carter High, Karns High, South-Doyle, West High and Norwood Elementary are on the first of the six levels for upgrades.

"We're looking at to where we can focus in the individual school as opposed to looking at ten schools,” says Dr. Wright.

Some Austin East High School parents say the staff is a bit scarce.

"They probably don't have enough teachers to go around,” says Austin-East parent Joyce Christopher.

But that won't stop their children.

"They put their mind to it, they'll be able to make it,” Christopher says.

Wright tells WVLT if Austin-East does not improve and ends up on the list next year, the state could take over and eliminate it, but Wright says she doesn't even see that as a possibility because she knows they'll make changes.

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