Tag Archives: tests

TN scores show little change on national ‘report card’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two years after Tennessee proclaimed itself the fastest-improving state for education in the country, that growth has leveled off, according to a national report that concluded the state has seen little to no change in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading scores over the last two years.

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress were released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education, media outlets report.

State officials said the news is still positive, as numerous states declined in many of the four categories, while Tennessee remained roughly the same.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said the state was able to retain its gains made in scores from 2011 to 2013

“There is no state that has improved as much as we have, and second place isn’t close,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a conference call with reporters. “What we’ve learned is that what Tennessee is doing is working.”

The NAEP, also known as the nation’s report card, is given to a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students every two years across all 50 states.

Tennessee has remained near the bottom of national academic rankings, and state officials set a lofty goal in 2011 of becoming the state to see the most academic improvement by 2015.

In 2013, the goal already was met and Tennessee was praised for having the most point-gain increase of any state on the test.

“A new set of fourth- and eighth-graders proved that the gains we made in 2013 were real,” Haslam said.

State designates top 5 percent of TN public schools

News release from state Department of Education
NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced 170 schools as the 2014-15 Reward Schools, the top 5 percent of schools in the state for academic achievement and the top 5 percent for annual growth.

The Reward Schools span 59 districts across Tennessee and include 93 schools that serve mostly economically disadvantaged populations.

“We are honored to recognize these Reward Schools for leading the state in progress and performance,” Haslam said at an event held at W. A. Wright Elementary in Wilson County, a school recognized for both its high overall achievement and strong growth. “Tennessee teachers and students are working harder than ever, and it’s paying off. Students are learning in new and challenging ways, and teachers are pouring their hearts into their work and helping students make incredible gains.”

This year’s list recognizes 76 schools for overall academic achievement and 85 schools for annual value-added growth. The list names nine schools that earned both designations, rising to the top 5 percent for annual value-added growth while also ranking in the state’s top 5 percent for overall achievement.
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Dept. of Ed apologizes for failure to communicate on test scores

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Education has apologized for failing to communicate changes in how it calculated test scores this year.

The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/1MksyuV ) the changes resulted in better-than-expected scores and may not be an indicator of overall student improvement.

Now, the department is holding meetings across the state with superintendents, principals and others to clear up the recent confusion.

The issue stemmed from how the department calculated “quick scores.” These are the scores educators in grades 3-8 are legally required to incorporate into a student’s final grade.

Spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education Ashley Ball says the decision was not widely communicated and has been a source of confusion for districts and educators.

The accountability data will officially be released statewide in June

See also WPLN on the “apology tour” and complications with the “quick score.”

Note: Previous posts HERE and HERE.

TN columnist bashes Pearson Education, hails legislators

This week’s Frank Cagle column bashes Pearson Education, the company that developed tests for use in Common Core as originally planned within Tennessee, and praises legislators for avoiding “a massive failure” that would have come with implementation.

I don’t have the space to list all of Pearson’s screw-ups, from wrong answers in New York to mistakenly flunking 8,000 Minnesota students or the total mess that is a billion-dollar contract with the Los Angeles school board.

Pearson has used grants, contributions and overlapping boards to achieve influence with the National Governors Association (originators of Common Core), the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, Teach for America (former Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s alma mater) and the Broad Foundation (that would be Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre’s alma mater). They also provide trips to conventions for superintendents and teachers.

The steamroller that was Common Core and the Pearson testing program had many amendments or bills suggesting changes tied up in committees. Everything was under control. Then a group of conservative Republican legislators found a caption bill on the floor of the House and used it to delay implementation for two years. It is almost unheard of for the body to bypass the committee system. The Best and Brightest were horrified that the Neanderthal legislators were derailing education progress. The conservatives found the House Democrats very receptive to join the effort because they had concerns about what was happening to teachers.

The delay got an astounding eighty-some-odd votes. The Senate managed to get the delay reduced to one year, then an election led to Haslam ordering a complete review of the standards, and the testing program was put out for bids. Not being an inside monopoly anymore, Pearson lost the bid. A bill this last session has led to a compromise where the standards will be home-grown but vetted by teachers, administrators and college professors. I am all for higher standards and I believe that this compromise will result in them. It should also have buy-in from the teachers and administrators.

Lest you think the Pearson problems in other states are not a problem here, just find a local educator who administers Pearson tests. (Yes, we have them.) I’ve talked with them and what I hear is that the software kicks kids off repeatedly during the test and the administrators have to re-boot. It’s a timed test, so after a certain number of failures the kid has to be pulled from the test and scheduled for a makeup test. The makeup test group is often as big as one of the original test classes.

Advocacy groups seek overhaul of TN student testing

News release from SCOM:
(Nashville, TN) – More than a dozen grassroots organizations that support strong public schools across Tennessee are joining together to demand accountability from the Tennessee Department of Education in the wake of confusion created by the latest release of “quick scores” and associated raw “cut scores” from recent TCAP tests.

“The correlation between the quick scores and the raw cut scores is not well understood,” said Lyn Hoyt, President of Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE). “The Department of Education has not communicated well with school systems or the general public. What do these scores mean? How do they determine cut scores? What’s the math involved in pre-equating and post-equating? These are among the questions we believe the DOE should have already answered. We’re calling on Commissioner McQueen to provide clear, direct answers immediately.”

The groups are jointly distributing a petition outlining some basic principles regarding testing going forward. The petition includes the following four principles that all groups believe should guide Tennessee testing policy going forward:

1. The process for determining cut scores should be clear and cut scores should be set and released before tests are administered

2. Tests must be transparent. Questions and answers should be available within a reasonable time after test administration.

3. Standardized test scores should not be counted as a portion of a student’s final grade.

4. Standardized test scores should not be used in teacher evaluation.
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State officials changed test score calculation, didn’t tell schools

TCAP grades on the report cards families received in the last week or so may be significantly higher than the actual scores that will be released this summer, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Based on a change in the way the state calculated early test results for grades 3-8 this year, the scores came back higher than last year. The state Department of Education says the results don’t mean more students are proficient and that the results would have been the same if it had used the old calculation. But, it has been apologizing for more than a week for not clearly communicating the changes.

TCAP scores that schools receive before the end of the year are “quick scores” calculated by a vendor soon after the tests are taken so results can be included in students’ final grades.

Historically, the scores in the elementary and middle schools were tied to proficiency levels. Teachers knew that students had to have a quick score of 85 to be proficient. When they came back higher and with no explanation why, teachers and students assumed their work had paid off.

…The Department of Education says the early scores were strictly for calculating final grades and are not to be used to make personnel decisions or determine if schools made their goals. It is no longer tying the scores to proficiency levels because it is possible for a student to receive a quick score of 85 — a B by most standards — and fail the exam.

“The decision was not widely communicated with districts,” Ashley Ball, department spokeswoman, said shortly before sending an explanatory email to all teachers and principals across the state Friday. Superintendents and school administrators received emails May 20, followed by another from the Commissioner of Education on May 22, in which she said the department regretted the oversight and would continue to improve its processes “such that we uphold our commitment to transparency, accuracy and timelines” regarding data returns.

Elizabeth Fiveash, Department of Education director of legislative affairs, and Nakia Towns, assistant commissioner of data and research, took questions over the phone for more than hour in (state Rep. Antonio) Parkinson’s office, explaining that while the scores may be higher, the bar for proficiency in grades 3-8 had not changed.

Several dozen teachers attended. Many shook their heads at the answers, saying their questions were not understood.

Shelby County Schools board member Stephanie Love repeatedly asked Fiveash and Towns who was going to be held responsible for the lack of communication.

“Apologies don’t do it,” she said. “Apologies don’t pay bills.”

Parkinson was “a little more confused” after hearing the answers. “One thing I did understand, this was not communicated properly, and it has caused a lot of confusion,” he said. “It is like changing the speed limit without changing the signs.”

On Teachers Cheating on Tests

By Adrian Sainz, Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was a brazen and surprisingly long-lived scheme, authorities said, to help aspiring public school teachers cheat on the tests they must pass to prove they are qualified to lead their classrooms.
For 15 years, teachers in three Southern states paid Clarence Mumford Sr. — himself a longtime educator — to send someone else to take the tests in their place, authorities said.
Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade and began their careers as cheaters, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.
Authorities say the scheme affected hundreds — if not thousands — of public school students who ended up being taught by unqualified instructors.
Mumford faces more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges that claim he created fake driver’s licenses with the information of a teacher or an aspiring teacher and attached the photograph of a test-taker. Prospective teachers are accused of giving Mumford their Social Security numbers for him to make the fake identities.

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