Leaders in the Tuscaloosa County School System are confident that things are improving at Holt High School, which was named a "failing school" by the Alabama Department of Education last week.

The "failing school" list includes 79 schools in the state where students' scores on standardized tests ranked in the bottom 6 percent of all schools for which data was gathered.

Holt High was the only TCSS school to make this list, which is the first published since the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world in 2020. Three Tuscaloosa City Schools -- Paul W. Bryant High, Westlawn Middle and Central Elementary -- were also included on the list.

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A spokesperson for the city schools was not available to comment Monday morning, but TCSS superintendent Keri Johnson provided a statement to the Thread saying she is confident that a turnaround is already underway at Holt High.

"For months, TCSS has been investing intentional, targeted resources into growth and improvement at Holt High School. Data review is a constant process for our administrators and educators, so while the public release of this list is new, our data is not new information to us," she said. "We are aware of where academic growth needs to occur, and we have strategies in place to achieve that growth. This work is happening not just at Holt High, but within the entire Holt feeder pattern, to provide this targeted support to students before they reach high school."

Johnson said the data reflected in the list of "failing schools" was gathered in the 2021-2022 academic year and does not account for changes that have already been made. She said the list also fails to include important context like the impact of the pandemic.

"Due to the pandemic, the 2021-22 school year marked the third straight year of catastrophic interruptions to learning for our students," Johnson said. "This is absolutely not a reason to disregard the data, but it is impossible to discount the circumstances our students faced during this time, and the impact of those circumstances on their learning and overall well-being."

Johnson also said the "failing schools" list was created using very little data, and that progress is already being made at Holt High.

"While academic data is a crucially important metric for us, no one indicator tells the whole story. For high schools, the data reflected by this list is from one administration of the ACT college entrance exam, on one single date, given to students within just one grade level. For high schools, no other data factors into this list," she said. "Holt High School is full of outstanding educators and students who have worked to overcome significant challenges in the past few years. With new strategies and support already in place, we are confident overall academic growth will occur at Holt High School."

For more about the three TCS schools included on the list when their leadership provides it, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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