Study Ranks Region's School Systems

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- Around the nation and here in East Tennessee a lot of people base where they make their home on how the area's schools rate.

Knoxville's Chamber of Commerce has now released a new study showing how East Tennessee's school compare to one another, and to the country.

The expansion management study uses a five-color system to rank school districts. Red is the bottom 10 percent, yellow is the bottom 25 percent, green is the solid middle, blue indicates a school system in the top 33 percent and gold places a system in the top 17 percent of schools. So what is Knox County's magic color?

"Knox County, in this region, is soundly in the middle," according to Mike Edwards, the CEO of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce.

Green, right in the solid middle. Take the neighboring school district of Oak Ridge. The secret city schools get gold. But what do these colors mean?

"It's just more of a comparison," Edwards says, "it's not something that we're going to try to use as a measurement tool."

Many different components are used in the comparison. According to Edwards they include factors such as how much money is spent per school, how difficult classes are, and the number of high school students who graduate. Knox County currently has an 83 percent graduation rate.

"We're going to have to have far more kids graduating and graduating with skills that will allow them to go to college or go to work," he says," We're not doing that now."

Knox County needs to consider changing a few things to if they want to obtain a gold rating.

"We may need to just re-align priorities," according to Edwards. "Or we may need additional funding, or we may need a combination of those two and many others things."

Looking to a highly rated school system such as Oak Ridge's maybe the key example to bring Knox County the gold.

"Oak Ridge, as a community, values education," says Thomas Bailey who is the Superintendent of the Oak Ridge school system. "Our parents, community, have stepped forward and funded education. They also get good results from that funding.

Mike Edwards knows the challenge and understands that it might be easier for Oak Ridge.

"Oak Ridge is a smaller system," Edwards says, "it's a municipal system, where Knox County is a county-wide system."

The chamber of commerce study also points out that Tennessee scores below the national average in Math and Science.

This makes since to Edwards who thinks the problem often goes beyond a county or region.

"If we're going to continue to be able to have jobs, all of the school systems are going to have to be that gold level."

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