For the third year in a row since the state raised its educational standards, Tennessee’s students have made gains on the state’s Comprehensive Assessment Program, according to data released by the state on Thursday, reports the News Sentinel.
“This is a very positive step for our state,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. “We’ve had steady growth and progress since 2010.”
The governor said the results show the state’s education system is moving toward the goal of having more students prepared for jobs, answering a common complaint he receives from the state’s business leaders.
“They’ll say, ‘We love being here. It’s a great business environment. But please prepare more folks who are ready for the workforce,'” Haslam said.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said the results were a cause for celebration, citing the overall upward swing in scores and figures, indicating a “narrowing gap” between children from low-income families and those from higher-income brackets.
“They (the scores) went up even faster for our kids on free and reduced-price lunch,” he said, adding this is counter to a national trend where the gap between student performance in income groups appears to be increasing.
Other highlights of Thursday’s release included:
Nearly 91,000 additional students were at or above grade level in all math subjects, as compared to 2010.
Nearly 52,000 additional students were at or above level in all math subjects.
For the first time since standards were raised, more than 50 percent of students were on grade level in every TCAP subject.
Students made gains on 22 of 24 tested subjects.
Students statewide showed improved average test scores in 23 of 24 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program categories this year, according to data released Tuesday.
Gov. Bill Haslam declared the score results “great news” that “makes it hard for anyone to argue that Tennessee is not on the right path now in education.”
The governor and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, joined by state legislators to in a celebratory announcement of the score results at a Nashville school, said gains in the key subjects of math and science were particularly impressive. Eighth-grade reading was the only subject that did not show gains this year.
The results, Haslam and Huffman acknowledged, still leave room for improvement.
About 47 percent of students scored at proficient levels or advanced in math, up from 41 percent a year earlier, an improvement that means 55,000 more students statewide achieved the desired level.
In an interview with The City Paper, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, nearing his first full year in the position, dismissed as “incorrect” media reports that his department planned to publish evaluation scores attached to teachers’ names.
The department is, of course, obligated to review open records requests on teacher personnel files, and would review them with state attorneys, he said.
“If news organizations or others make open records requests, we’ll have to review the requests, and figure out if we need to hand over that information, which could lead news organizations to publish that information,” Huffman said.
But an important caveat will determine which evaluation data in Tennessee actually receives sunshine.
Under the evaluation system, each teacher across the state is assigned a score ranging from 1 through 5. Administrators arrive at that figure by weighing three categories. Half the score is based on in-class observations by principals. Student achievement accounts for another 15 percent. The remaining 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation stems from what educators call value-added data, which measures a student’s progress over time, from one year to the next. According to state law, as Huffman pointed out, value-added data is protected from public records, complicating what state officials would be willing to publicize.
“Part of the challenge is that because value-added scores are protected by law, we can’t give out value-added scores, and we can’t give out information that will allow people to ultimately figure out the value-added scores,” Huffman said. “We would just have to look at every request that came in, because I think the nuances are tricky.”
In short, a teacher’s in-class observation score could very well be made a public record. But the value-added portion, more than one-third of a teacher’s overall scores, would not. That creates a grey area: The state wouldn’t hand over the final 1-through-5 score, along with remaining 65 percent of that score’s basis. If it did, someone could simply pull out a calculator to determine that shielded value-added portion.
At issue are the scores stamped on every teacher in Tennessee in the state’s new teacher evaluation system, implemented in the current school year in Tennessee and part of a growing trend nationwide. Performance evaluations have emerged as a hot-button education issue in Tennessee, with many teachers deriding the approach as flawed, unfair, time-consuming and methodical.
In other parts of the country, obtaining and publishing these scores — and the identities of the teachers who received each one — have proven contentious. The first news outlet to do so was the Los Angeles Times, which in 2010 overcame resistance from teachers’ unions to publicize evaluation scores, accompanied by teacher names, on the newspaper’s website.
In February, The New York Times published scores of New York City teachers after a failed legal effort by the United Federation of Teachers and despite the opposition of many educators. Today, a parent, teacher or student — anyone for that matter — can go on a Times-administered site called SchoolBook and find the evaluation scores for every teacher in the city. Some rankings are high. Some are abysmally low.
For now, Huffman is urging media outlets in Tennessee against taking up this tactic, saying that publicizing the information would yield nothing more than gossip material that isn’t in the interests of teachers.
Tennessee’s latest “report card” on student performance in schools, which showed a dramatic drop last year after a change in standards, indicates that students are posting gains — from 49 percent to 55 percent passing high school math, for example, and from34 percent to 41 percent passing the subject in grades 3-8.
From the Tennessean’s report on the report:
The state released Friday’s statewide report card with little fanfare compared with past years — just an email to media that the scores were live on the Department of Education’s website. Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman wasn’t available to offer his analysis.
That may be because the report card, set up under federal No Child Left Behind measurements, could be moot within weeks.
Tennessee filed a waiver request with the U.S. Department of Education asking to use its own school accountability plan that will have less-severe penalties and will judge schools based on learning gains instead of pass-or-fail.
Also, the state released major portions of the report card earlier this year, including a list of schools that didn’t make adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind. Nearly half of schools missed testing goals after a quarter missed them in 2010.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam says a goal to improve Tennessee students’ proficiency scores by 20 percent over the next five years would provide evidence that the state’s education overhaul is working.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said at budget hearings in Knoxville last week that his agency wants to meet that goal.
“We want Tennessee to be the fastest-improving state in the country in education results,” Huffman said. “We think that we have a plan to do that, and we think that we have the capacity to do that.”
While Tennessee’s scores on what is known as the Nation’s Report Card in education remained the same, the City Paper notes the performance of other states improved, dropping the volunteer state’s national ranking.
The Tennessee Department of Education on Tuesday released its results in the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, showing no statistical change in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores.
The state dropped from 45th to 46th in the nation in fourth-grade math; from 39th to 41st in fourth-grade reading; from 43rd to 45th in eighth-grade math; and from 34th to 41st in eighth-grade reading. Also according to the results, 26 percent of fourth-grade students are proficient in reading, and 30 percent are proficient in math. Twenty-seven percent of eighth-grade students are proficient in reading, while 24 percent are proficient in math.
Note: News release below
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A special legislative panel is considering a proposal that would end high school graduates’ ability to qualify for Tennessee lottery scholarships through their ACT score alone.
The Senate Lottery Stabilization Task Force met for the first time Monday. Its members have been assigned by Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville to find ways to stem losses in the scholarship fund’s reserves.
Students must currently earn either a 3.0 grade point average or score a 21 on their ACT to qualify for a scholarship worth $4,000 at four-year schools.
David Wright, who heads the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s policy and planning division, told the panel that without any changes, the lottery’s reserves would be depleted by 2024.
Wright projected that ending the ACT-only path would save $24 million.
News release from state Department of Education:
Today ACT is releasing “The Condition of College and Career Readiness,” a report which highlights statewide data on ACT scores, academic achievement and post-secondary aspirations. Tennessee’s results from the April 2011 test show the state’s public high school students’ composite ACT score dropped from 19.1 in 2010 to 19.0 out of 36 in 2011, highlighting the ongoing need for education reform to achieve the state’s Race to the Top goal of broader college readiness.
Across the state, 24 percent of students are college-ready in math, 55 percent in English, 38 percent in reading and 17 percent in science. The report also shows a wide achievement gap between white students and black students. Only 7 percent of black students are college-ready in math, according to ACT results.
In a survey administered as part of the exam, nearly 75 percent of Tennessee’s public high school students said they aspire to attain at least a four-year bachelor’s degree, but most are not prepared to take college classes in core academic subjects without remedial help.
“These results are unacceptable, and we have to do more to ensure that our high school students’ academic results align with their aspirations,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “As U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan noted in his visit to Tennessee last week, we must aspire to be the fastest growing state in the country, while being honest about where we stand and how far we still need to go.”
Every year, the Tennessee Board of Regents spends $26 million for remedial and developmental courses for underprepared students, said TBR Chancellor John Morgan.
“We cannot continue to provide remediation as a stop-gap for poor high school outcomes. It is imperative that our institutions work closely with our high schools, our current teachers and our future teachers to help improve preparation.”
Tennessee officials believe that a nearly 4 percentage point gain in students scoring on grade level in reading on last year’s Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test, and 7 percentage point gain in math will translate into higher ACT scores in future years.
“College readiness is not an issue determined in 11th grade, but is the culmination of an entire system of education,” Huffman said. “I am encouraged by the progress we are making in earlier grades, and feel a sense of urgency to ensure that this translates into higher skill levels by graduation.”
Well-educated and fully prepared high school graduates are the key to a successful community and a thriving economy, said Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
“Whether our students choose to attend trade schools, community colleges or four-year universities, it is critical that they have a solid K-12 foundation, Woodson said.
The ACT is a nationally recognized measure of college readiness. If students meet benchmarks on the standardized test in English, math, reading and science, they are considered college-ready, meaning they could take a college-level course in that subject area and earn at least a “C.”
To see more data on college readiness in Tennessee and other states, visit www.act.org.
By Erik Schelzig,Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An Associated Press analysis of student testing data shows Tennessee school systems without teachers’ collective bargaining rights performed slightly better than those with negotiated contracts, but posted weaker gains.
Thirty-eight of the state’s 135 local school districts did not engage in collective bargaining with their teachers before a new law eliminated those rights this year, according to the Tennessee Education Association.
Those districts averaged a higher percentage of students earning proficient or advanced scores in the four categories tested. The largest difference was in math, where non-bargaining districts averaged 3.5 percentage points higher than the rest of the districts, while social science scores were just a half percentage point apart.
But the districts that allowed collective bargaining — which included the state’s four largest cities — averaged larger gains in all four categories compared with last year’s scores.
The mostly Republican supporters of a new law that replaced collective bargaining rights with a concept called “collaborative conferencing” argued that the move put a priority on teacher performance over workplace issues.
But Democrats and the state’s largest teachers’ union characterized the legislation as a politically motivated attack.
News release from state Department of Education:
NASHVILLE, TN- The Tennessee Department of Education today released district-level 2010-2011 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Achievement Test results. Now available online, the statewide and district-by-district breakdown shows how each school district performed in advancing student growth in all subject areas and grade levels three through eight.
“Tennessee educators deserve immense credit for their hard work this year in helping our students achieve marked improvements and success,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said. “We want to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and the cornerstone of that effort is a great education system. I’m very encouraged by these latest results, and we’re all committed to continuing to work together to improve the classroom experience for every student across the state.”
Across the state, Tennessee students scored higher in all subject areas and grade levels in grades three through eight on this year’s TCAP achievement tests by comparison to 2009-2010 results. Student math scores grew by 7% and reading scores grew by 3.7%. These improvements show student success with the heightened academic standards implemented last year. An extended version of the statewide press conference is available online.
For the first time, TCAP achievement test results are being made publicly available on the department’s website in a district-by-district breakdown that shows the percentage of students who scored at the below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced levels in grades three through eight. High school end of course results and AYP determinations are not finalized and will likely be released in the coming weeks.
“Our prompt release of student achievement data demonstrates the department’s commitment to transparency,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “We must measure our progress by how much our students accomplish, and both educators and the public need timely access to comprehensive student achievement data to accurately measure our progress.”
Students in Grades 3-8 take the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Achievement Test each spring. The Achievement Test is a timed, multiple choice assessment that measures skills in Reading, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. Student results are reported to parents, teachers and administrators. To view the 2010-2011 TCAP results, visit the Tennessee Department of Education website homepage at http://tn.gov/education.