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80 Years Ago

Archives 01-26-2005



County celebrates Imagination Library
Value-added scores add confusion to report card
Fentress man arrested for baby's murder



County celebrates Imagination Library

photo courtesy of the Stephens Center
Preparing for the parent registration for Imagination Library this Saturday at the Chamber of Commerce are, from left, Dian Dillon, of Upper Cumberland Resource Agency, Overton County Mayor Kenneth Copeland, Donna Hall, of the Stephens Center, and Janet Gann, of Overton County Public Library.

Overton County has joined 34 other Tennessee counties with the creation of their own Imagination Library program, and will host a public celebration and parent/child registration on Saturday, Jan. 29 from 10 a.m. to noon at Livingston-Overton County Chamber of Commerce.

First National Bank will provide refreshments.

The Imagination Library program was created by Dolly Parton in 1996, and provides a new, age-appropriate, hardcover book each month to children from birth to age 5 at no cost to the family. The Imagination Library is now available in more than 385 communities in 39 states.

The total cost of the program is only $27 per child per year, which includes 12 hardcover books, postage, shipping and handling, and reflects absolutely no administrative overhead costs.

The total cost is split equally between each county program and the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation.

To assist with Imagination Library efforts throughout the state, Gov. Bredesen last year established the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation and has partnered with the Dollywood Foundation to provide the best available resources, assistance, and training to Tennesseans seeking to establish their own county-wide Imagination Library programs.

The foundation now offers matching funds to pay 50 percent of the cost of county-wide Imagination Library book orders, as approved by Gov. Bredesen and the General Assembly.

Overton County's Imagination Library is made possible through the collective efforts of Overton County Mayor Kenneth Copeland and his office, the county commissioners, the office of General Sessions Judge John Officer, First National Bank, and numerous community partners and individuals.

These donors seek to offer the Imagination Library program to each of Overton County's 1,240 children under age 5.

All Overton County parents are encouraged to attend Saturday's kick-off and register their children under age 5 to receive a free, hardcover, age-appropriate book every month.

For more information about the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation visit online at www.governorsfoundation.org.

For more information about the Imagination Library program call Carolyn Isbell, director of the Stephens Center, at (931) 823-6432.


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Value-added scores add confusion to report card

When Tennessee Department of Education report cards were released in November, scores showed Overton County students achieving at adequate levels or better. When value-added scores were added to the report cards last week, the additional grades appeared to reflect poorly on the school system, at least on the surface.

But as Director of Schools Bill Needham explained, the value-added scores are not meant to shed a bad light on the county students - or teachers.

"You have to know the difference in the two scores," Needham said. "We're still at and above state levels on achievement. Our kids achieved as well on average as the average student in Tennessee.

"The value-added scores showed that we didn't make the average amount of gain that the average student in Tennessee made, based on a three-year average," he said.

In previous years, students had been graded on a norm-reference scale, which compared the students to others in the nation. The shift from the previous accountability system to the federal No Child Left Behind system, which includes the value-added scores, is criterion-referenced.

The value-added scores provide insight into where improvements can be made, as well as areas where students are progressing above the mark. By examining these scores, teachers and principals cannot only see how a class is progressing on the whole; they can also identify groups, and even individual students, within the class.

"It should be a very good tool for teachers and principals to understand what their students have mastered and what they haven't mastered, and make adjustments to their curriculum," Director Needham said.

Making those adjustments with more than half the school year already over could prove a bit tricky, though.

"One thing that bothers me is it's almost test time again," Needham said. "We have a much shorter window to analyze the data, make adjustments, and get prepared for this next test. This is information teachers need at the beginning of the year."

The shift from norm-referenced testing to criterion-referenced testing caused a delay in the release of this year's scores. The state does plan to release scores earlier in the future.

While Needham does see the changes as another opportunity to improve students' learning, he said he does not think the value-added scores should be overemphasized. He said he is not as concerned about the scores as he is curious about how to use the information to implement the changes.

"The fear I have in all this is that we'll leave out some of the things kids enjoy learning, things that are good knowledge for them to have, and worry about whether it's on the test or not," he said.

But as educators learn to balance what they teach in the classrooms by evaluating both achievement and value-added scoring results, this new insight should prove to be a valuable tool, he noted.

"As a teacher, you've got to know the subject matter and be comfortable teaching it; and you've got to know the various methods to use it," Needham said.

"This is one of those tools. That's the bottom line. That's how it needs to be used and that's what we're trying to do.

"If the teachers are more effective in the classroom, our kids' achievement improves, and that's why we're here."

The full school system report card, including school-by-school reports, is available online at www.tennessee.gov/education.


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Fentress man arrested for baby's murder

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has arrested a Fentress County man on charges of 1st Degree Murder and Aggravated Child Abuse in the death of his 10 month-old daughter.

Billy Scott Sells, 25, of Oak Apartments in Jamestown, was arrested at the Fentress County Courthouse on Friday, Jan. 21, where he was attending a Department of Children's Services hearing for an unrelated matter.

Sells had been caring for his daughter, Brylee Rose Sells, when she died the morning of Christmas Eve. Autopsy reports indicate the child was beaten and smothered to death.

The autopsy placed the time of death between 1 a.m. and 5 p.m. December 24. Her mother, Jennifer Rose Talley, was not at the residence at that time, according to reports.

Sells was incarcerated in Fentress County Jail on a $100,000 bond.


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Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570
tel 931.823.6485
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