To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Tuesday, February 7, 2023


School Reform



Hamilton County, TN, is home to one of the nation’s most widely touted school reform success stories.

Beginning in 2001, eight low-performing elementary schools began to show remarkable improvement after the Benwood Foundation and the Public Education Foundation formed a partnership with Hamilton County Schools.

At the outset of what is known as the Benwood Initiative, district officials reconstituted the faculties of participating schools by requiring teachers to reapply for their jobs and hiring replacements for those that didn’t make the cut.

In addition, community officials established incentives [free graduate school tuition, mortgage loans and performance bonuses] to attract new talent. However, most of the teachers who reapplied for their jobs were hired back and less than 20 of the 300 teachers received bonuses in the first year of the incentive plan.

When investigating the reasons for the startling successes, Education Sector found that the initiative focused on the ever more important reform strategy of helping teachers improve instruction.

Education Sector’s analysis of “value-added” teacher effectiveness data suggests that during the course of six years, existing teachers improved steadily.

This made the initiative about way more than flashy incentives and reconstitution.

Frosty Troy is Founding Editor of The Oklahoma Observer

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.