Tag Archives: testing

Task force recommends scrapping some tests

From Chalkbeat-Tennessee:
Amid concerns that Tennessee is over-testing its students, a state task force recommended on Tuesday eliminating the option to test kindergarten and first-graders, as well as dropping two mandatory college preparatory tests for eighth- and 10th-graders.

The panel, charged with reviewing K-12 tests and testing policies, also recommended releasing test questions from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), including the state’s new TNReady assessment, despite the likely high financial cost to the state.

The recommendations come as Tennessee makes a major shift in testing this year with the launch of the TNReady assessment in math and English language arts for grades 3-11. Tennessee students will begin next spring taking the Common Core-aligned test, which will replace the previous exam that doesn’t align with the state’s current academic standards.

The task force urged the release of TCAP questions in order to increase testing transparency — something that teachers have pushed for as tests have become more critical in Tennessee’s teacher evaluation process.

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said she was unsure of the cost for releasing test questions, since developing new questions each year likely would be expensive. But, she said, the cost is worth it to build trust among students, parents and teachers.

“This is a new time, a new era, and so we believe transparency is more important than ever,” McQueen said during a morning press briefing on the report.

Note The Department of Education’s press release is below.
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TN scores on ACT test increase for third straight year

News release from state Department of Education
NASHVILLE — For the third straight year, Tennessee public high school students improved on the ACT, administered to all students statewide. The average composite increased from 19.3 last year to 19.4 this year, adding to what has been a three-year pattern of growth for the state.

Though this increase is incremental, Tennessee continues to be a state making steady gains while the national average has remained stagnant. In addition to overall growth, more Tennessee students than ever before are scoring college ready in all four subjects (math, English, reading, and science), showing a four percent increase from 2011. Even with this growth, only 27 percent of students met the college ready benchmark in math, 35 percent met the benchmark in reading, and 17 percent met the benchmark in all four subjects.

“We are proud that our students are continuing to show growth on the ACT. It is particularly encouraging considering the urgent need for us to better prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “A high school diploma is no longer enough to ensure success after graduation. Our teachers and parents need better information every year to ensure our students are on track to be college and career ready.”
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Survey finds TN teachers worried by testing

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With new tests on the way in math and English for students in grades three through 11, a survey released Wednesday shows Tennessee teachers worried that they’re spending too much time on testing and test preparation.

TNReady will be given to students in the spring. It’s part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, which includes achievement tests and end-of-course exams for science, social students, math and English.

Officials say the new test is designed to measure students’ understanding of the material, not just memorization and test-taking skills. They say it will better measure students’ progress and make sure they are on track to succeed after graduation.

State education officials told reporters last week that the best thing teachers could do to get students ready for the test would be to provide “strong instruction every day.”

However, the survey of nearly 37,000 teachers showed 60 percent say they spend too much time helping students prepare for statewide exams, and seven out of ten believe their students spend too much time taking exams. (Note: The department’s report on the survey is HERE.)
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New TCAP scores show improvement in most areas

News release from state Department of Edcuation
NASHVILLE— The Tennessee Department of Education today released district-level results from the 2015 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), which show strong gains in high school and significant gains in grades 3-8 math.

A majority of students in nearly 100 districts were proficient in math, compared to 2011, when the majority of students were proficient in math in only 24 districts. Districts showed significant gains specifically in grades 3-8 math with 121 districts out of 144 improving. In addition, for the first time since the test was given in 2011, the majority of students were proficient or advanced in Algebra II in more than 65 percent of districts.

“The support districts have offered to teachers and students has evolved as we have raised expectations for learning across the state,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “The sustained growth in high school and math and science shows us that the strategies and practices districts are using work. Now we have an opportunity to understand what has helped move student learning and replicate this in all grades and subjects, ensuring that Tennessee students have every opportunity to succeed.”

The majority of Tennessee districts continued to make gains in science across grade levels. Notably, nearly 100 districts made gains in Chemistry. As seen in state results, growth in grades 3-8 English language arts declined across districts, while the majority of districts made gains in the high school courses of English I and English III.

Historically underserved students also narrowed gaps with their peers in districts across the state. Black, Hispanic, and Native American students narrowed gaps in both math and English language arts in the majority of districts. Economically disadvantaged students also narrowed gaps with their peers in high school, making gains in English II in 65 percent of districts and making gains in Algebra II in 77 percent of districts.

District results also highlighted growth in historically low performing schools. Students in the Achievement School District (ASD), a state-operated school district created by the Tennessee General Assembly to improve Tennessee’s bottom 5 percent of schools, showed faster learning gains than their peers across the state in math and science. Additional analysis of the ASD data shows that the district’s first and second year cohorts of schools – those in their second and third year of operation – earned the state’s highest possible student achievement growth rating.

Tennessee students have made notable gains over the past four years. Since 2011, 131,000 more students are on grade level in math, and nearly 60,000 more students are on grade level in science.

To see additional district-level TCAP results as well as school-level TCAP results, visit: http://www.tn.gov/education/article/2015-tcap-district-results.

TCAP test results show improvement in all high school subjects

News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen today announced Tennessee students made significant gains in all high school subjects and in the majority of subjects in grades 3-8.

High school scores on the 2015 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) continued to show strong growth for the third consecutive year, increasing in all seven tested subjects across English language arts, math and science. Since Haslam took office in 2011, 131,000 more students are on grade level in math, and nearly 60,000 more students are on grade level in science.

This year all individual grades and subjects showed gains in math, resulting in nearly 22,000 more students on grade level than last year. In particular, students continued to make meaningful increases in Algebra II. In 2011, less than one-third of students were performing at grade level in Algebra II. More than 54 percent of students in 2015 performed at or above grade level, nearly doubling the number of students meeting or exceeding the mark in this subject.
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Now there’s a task force on testing (AP story and news release)

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new task force will review student testing and assessment amid concerns that students are being overtested, the state Education Department announced Monday.

The group is charged with identifying best practices in testing and how those assessments align with required state tests.

“We have heard some concerns that there is ‘too much testing’ taking place,” said Education Commissioner Candace McQueen. “So as education leaders and stakeholders, it’s important that we clearly understand current testing policies and practices at both the state and local levels.”

Jim Wrye, assistant executive director of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said he’s pleased to see the panel formed.

“When you’re losing the time to teach because you are testing and testing again, you have lost the purpose of what tests are supposed to be,” he said.

The formation of the panel comes at a time when the state is preparing to administer an assessment that aligns with the state’s current academic standards, which include the controversial Common Core state standards for English and math.

Conservative critics argue that the common education standards represent federal intrusion in matters that should be decided by the state, while those on the left say they impose too many requirements on teachers.
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Bill would require passing civics test for high school graduation in TN

Tennessee high school students would be required to pass the same civics test to get their high school degrees that immigrants must pass to become United States citizens under legislation proposed for the upcoming session of the General Assembly by legislative leaders.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick says he decided to push the measure after reading reports on the “pathetic” lack of knowledge about basic principles behind American government and citizenship, especially among younger people.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris will sponsor the legislation in the Senate, according to a spokeswoman.

“We want there to be some basic understanding of how government works,” said McCormick in an interview. “That’s what our democracy depends on.”

While aware there is controversy over the number of tests already required of students, the Chattanooga Republican said the new requirement is warranted and being considered in other states.
“I think it’s very important,” he said. “It’s worth the extra effort.”

Civics Education Initiative, a group formed in 2013 with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner as a key supporter, launched in September of 2014 an effort to have all 50 states require a civics knowledge test by 2017. The organization’s website and various media reports indicate at least seven states – Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah – will be considering similar legislation.
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Annual TN schools ‘report card’ is out

News release from state Department of Education:
NASHVILLE—The 2014 state Report Card­­­­—posted Thursday on the Tennessee Department of Education website—offers users the ability to view detailed breakdowns of last year’s student achievement growth and other important data points.

The 2014 Report Card features a variety of tabs including growth or value-added data, accountability, and education climate. A College and Career Readiness tab features this year’s noteworthy ACT gains, as well as data on graduation rate, college and career readiness benchmarks, and the percentage of students who are eligible to receive the HOPE Scholarship.

“We believe it is important for parents, students, and community members to have access to data that shows how their schools are doing,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “The functionality of the state Report Card allows parents and the community to not only digest data on area schools, but also organize and compare specific information about students at the state, district, and school level.”

The design of the 2014 Report Card mirrors last year’s Report Card and offers users the ability to create personalized comparisons between schools and districts on a variety of measures, including achievement, ACT scores, graduation rate, student enrollment and ethnicity, and value-added composite scores.

As the state strives to advance outcomes for all Tennessee students, these results allow educators to identify areas that need the most improvement. Through its regional offices, the department provides resources, support, and expert analysis to help districts and schools with data-driven interventions.

Note: The ‘report card’ is HERE.

N.C. firm deemed winner in bidding for $100M TN school testing contract

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration intends to award Measurement Inc. of Durham, N.C., with a contract for more than $100 million to develop and produce standardized tests for the state’s public schools, reports The Tennessean.

The state notified five companies Wednesday that Measurement Inc. had the best evaluated proposal of companies that bid to create assessments for English language arts and math. If and when the contract is officially awarded to Measurement Inc., it will produce tests beginning next school year to replace pieces of — or at least alter — the outdated Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. The new tests would align with the state’s current Common Core standards.

A contract still requires signatures and would need to clear an appeals process. It comes after the Tennessee General Assembly last spring halted a previously planned transition to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC — a Common Core-aligned computer-based test.

Instead, the state reopened bids for the 2015-16 year for a testing contract that is expected to be in the neighborhood of $107 million over five years. It would replace education giant Pearson Inc., which produces TCAP.

“This is an important step forward for Tennessee,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said in a written statement, though he was unavailable for an interview. “The department will support teachers and school and district leaders throughout the state with regional trainings as they transition to the new test.”

“The state’s Central Procurement Office has led a fair and transparent process.”

The other four companies to bid on the contract were CTB/McGraw Hill, Pearson, Questar Assessment and Vantage.

Kelly Smith, a spokeswoman for the procurement office, said Measurement Inc.’s proposal received the highest technical score — used to assess a company’s ability to provide a service — and the lowest proposed cost.

ACT scores show big gain in TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The latest ACT test scores show Tennessee’s composite score had its largest gain in more than a decade.

ACT officials say the state’s composite growth score of 0.3 released Wednesday is statistically significant, particularly for a state that administers the test to all students.

Meanwhile, in other education-related news, test assessment results released earlier this week show more than twice the number of Metro Nashville public schools are performing at the state’s lowest academic level than was the case two years ago.

The jump in so-called “priority schools” means more intervention by the state-run Achievement School District, which oversees the 85 schools that fall within the bottom 5 percent of performance statewide.

The rise in Davidson County comes as the number of priority schools in Memphis decreased by 10.