Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy in Knoxville Earns $5,000 School of Promise Award

September 11, 2020

Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy in Knoxville Earns $5,000 School of Promise Award

Tennessee school honored for early success with NIET initiatives that focus on high-quality instruction

Dr. Candice McQueen, CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), surprised leaders at Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy in Knox County Schools today with a $5,000 NIET School of Promise Award. The award honors Sarah Moore Greene's early success in implementing NIET's initiatives to improve teaching and learning since the partnership began in 2018.

Over the past two years, Sarah Moore Greene has embraced a culture of data-driven collaboration, and school leaders have made ongoing investments in professional learning and coaching for teachers. After consecutive years of level 1 growth, Sarah Moore Greene earned level 5 in 2019, the highest growth rating possible in the state. While testing was suspended this spring, NIET has continued to see Sarah Moore Greene model a spirit of collaboration and innovation through the transition and shifts required to respond to COVID-19, earning them this award.

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Flip through the photo gallery for highlights of the surprise celebration.

Sarah Moore Greene is one of just two schools that NIET is honoring as a School of Promise this year. Given the surprise nature of the award, the second school will be announced at a later date.

"Sarah Moore Greene is a community that continues to reach for that next level of excellence and show us what's possible," said Dr. McQueen. "These educators deserve to be honored and recognized, and we are grateful for the opportunity to continue to work and learn alongside them over the year ahead."

NIET has a 20-year history of working alongside more than 8,500 schools, districts, states, and universities to ensure that all students have effective educators. NIET has been working with educators in Tennessee for the past decade, and the NIET rubric is the foundation for the statewide TEAM evaluation system. Across the country, NIET's partner schools have shown success by both outperforming similar schools and having greater teacher retention.

"I commend the outstanding work of our educators at Sarah Moore Greene and their commitment to making a difference in the lives of their students," Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas said. "To be acknowledged with this special recognition is a testament to their efforts and to our great partnership with NIET."

Recipients of the $5,000 NIET School of Promise Award are selected by NIET for their efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement; plan for regular professional learning focused on daily needs of teachers and students; create a culture of collaboration and reflection; and create systems that maximize the talents of teacher leaders and administrators to drive student growth. Leaders are able to spend the money as they choose to support their educators. Since partnering with NIET in fall 2018, Sarah Moore Greene has improved student achievement and growth through implementing a new focus on job-embedded coaching and instructional excellence.

What Sets Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Technology Academy Apart

Sarah Moore Greene is an elementary magnet school with a unique media and communications focus. The school offers opportunities including STEM programming and arts education and has almost 600 total students, about 75% of whom are African American and about 80% of whom are considered economically disadvantaged.

Years of consecutive level 1 student growth ratings motivated Sarah Moore Greene to start a culture shift. NIET staff partnered with the school to help leaders diagnose barriers teachers faced for delivering effective instruction, and specialists work 1:1 with teachers and leaders to coach them over the course of the school year. The school has used coaching conversations and schoolwide instructional strategies to create a strong school culture around a common language and goals. School leaders, teachers and support staff began to recalibrate instructional priorities to focus on teacher and student needs. Over 50 teachers at Sarah Moore Greene have worked together under the leadership of Principal Robin Curry to strengthen their instruction and to ultimately support student growth.

As a reflection of its level 5 growth, in 2019, the percentage  of students scoring on track or mastered on TNReady grew in English language arts and math – for the latter, there was nearly a 10-point jump from the previous year. Sarah Moore Greene has proven their idea that "teachers, principals and support staff are the driving force behind our educational mission." By prioritizing teacher and student needs, they have shown that incredible growth is possible when educators are united around a common language and goals.

For photos and video from today's surprise award, please visit