Strategies for Student Success 2015 - Page 17

The Door Is Always Open at Grassy Fork School Enrolling at Grassy Fork School, a 2015 SCORE Prize finalist, will be different from the typical new student experience, according to seventh-grader Leah Murray. “When you first come in, it might feel almost awkward. ‘Who are you? Where did you come from?’ They actually care,” Leah said. “They just kind of welcomed me with open arms. The teachers and the staff make everyone feel special as a person.” Leah had just moved to the area from Florida. Her new school changed the way she thought about herself. and high level of community involvement, Grassy Fork serves kids with innovation and heart. The results are noteworthy – middle school students, for example, score roughly 20 points above the state average across reading, math, and science and have shown strong growth on the three-year TVAAS measure. Grassy Fork is the essence of a community school, with student learning intertwined with the daily life of area families and residents. Many activities and events in town revolve around the school, including food drives, celebrations, fund-raisers for families in need, and public safety events. “I didn’t really know that I was that smart. I thought I was just kind of average,” Leah said. “I learned what it really means to care.” A consistent, high level of community engagement defines Grassy Fork, helping students complete their best work academically and maintaining a focus on student outcomes in the surrounding community. The school is small – there are around 100 students in grades K-8, including a group of about 30 kids in grades 6-8. It’s situated on a mountain in Cocke County near the unincorporated community of Hartford, on the eastern edge of Tennessee. At Grassy Fork, a SCORE Prize finalist in the middle school category, students have demonstrated tremendous growth over the last decade. A three-year partnership with the Niswonger Foundation starting in 2002 improved the school’s use of data and instructional differentiation. Now, with a strong academic focus, close-knit culture, 16