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The Niswonger Foundation would like to congratulate Sullivan North High School for their success of increasing ACT scores (see story below).  Principal Brent Palmer and all of the teachers at Sullivan North are using all of the resources available to them to see that every student has the opportunity to attend college. As is evidenced by the scores, the SN students have a true desire for college and a career, and they are working hard to get there.


Story by:  RICK WAGNER

Kingsport Times News

August 31st, 2015

KINGSPORT — Sullivan North High School was the only Sullivan County high school to increase its ACT composite scores for the class of 2015, and it was among two of four county high schools that scored above the Tennessee average.

"We enjoy surprising people," North Principal Brent Palmer said Monday morning at his desk at North, less than a week after the scores were released Aug. 26. He was referring to North's football, volleyball, ACT and end of course test results, among other things.

The ACT result of 20.8 is good, he said, but he also cited the 2015 results as the third consecutive year of increases in the percentage of students who made college-ready scores in all four subject areas. The 20.8 is up 1.5 points from the 2014 score of 19.3. He predicted at least one more year of marked increases before the scores level off to slight variations from year to year.

North exceeded the state average ACT composites of 19.4 for public schools and 19.8 for public and private combined. The only other county school to beat the state averages was Sullivan South, but it fell from 22.7 to 21.4. Sullivan East was 18.7, down from 19.4, and Sullivan Central was 19.3, down from 19.7.

Kingsport's Dobyns-Bennett High School had a composite score of 22.5, and city school officials credited Advanced Placement offerings and an increasing number of students taking advantage of them as one reason for the increase in ACT scores.

Palmer said the reasons for North's success, in his mind, are not secrets. In addition to offering Advanced Placement, dual enrollment with four-year colleges and the Jumpstart program with Northeast State Community College, he credited the teachers, coaches and students with the ACT other successes.

"Those things do make a difference," he said. "Different things work for different people. I think schools are the same way."

He also cited a decision to put the school's best teachers in RTI or Response to Intervention, doing tutoring programs for students and teachers working to building good relationships with students. In addition, he said the Niswonger Foundation helped by providing free ACT practice tests and teachers worked to personalize the education of juniors and seniors at North with that practice tests and other tools.

Palmer said area principals, together at meetings at least a couple of times a year, share best practices among schools and school systems.

"I really want all the Sullivan County schools to do well," Palmer said. And like D-B Principal Chris Hampton said the week the results were released, Palmer said high school is about a lot more than just test results.

"Every kid needs to have something they are involved in at school," said Palmer, a former Sullivan South band director who said athletics, band and clubs help students learn to work at teams, something the Niswonger Foundation and area industries have said is essential in today's workforce.

"We've worked really, really hard to improve everything across the board, not just ACT scores," Palmer said. "We're blessed to have wonderful teachers and fantastic students."

The class of 2015 at North was more than 100 students among about 530 at the school. Although Tennessee "requires" students take the ACT, among 13 states to do that, there are no penalties for not taking it. He said a few North college-bound students chose to take the SAT instead of the ACT, and that some not bound for college choose not to take either test.

"Not every child is going to college," Palmer said. He said the school strongly encourages students to take the ACT but that it is a hard test and not all students do or feel the need to do so. There is no penalty for not taking the test. At South, Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski Friday said the 196 who took the test was pretty much the senior class.

However, Palmer said North is seeing an increase in graduates going to two-year colleges, thanks to the Tennessee Promise scholarships that basically cover the cost of a two-year degree for any Tennessee high school graduate.

"I think it's unfortunate that it is such a competition, the ACT," Palmer said. "It really is about kids' futures and what is right for kids."

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