By Jared Felkins
Just hours after students loaded buses to pick up report cards at Lebanon schools and return home, Tennessee Department of Education officials announced TCAP scores would be released Friday afternoon.
In a letter to school superintendents Friday, state education department officials said Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program scores would be released Friday afternoon after “external experts” signed off on the validity and accuracy of the results seven days prior to the anticipated release date.
Wilson County interim Director of Schools Mary Ann Sparks was unable to be reached for comment, but school board member Larry Tomlinson confirmed the TCAP scores release would give officials enough time to get final grades calculated before report cards are given to students Friday.
“Mary Ann and I talked about this [Thursday], and she said she was assured the TCAP scores would be available about a week before report cards go out,” Tomlinson said. “We should have everything in place to get those calculated to get final grades for report cards.”
Waivers that were issued to school systems, including Lebanon, would still be honored by the state. The waivers allow schools to finalize report cards without factoring in TCAP scores, which count for 20 percent of students’ final grades in Lebanon schools’ case.
“We have requested and received a waiver from the commissioner at the department [of education] to issue report cards without the TCAP score this year,” said Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson on Wednesday.
Benson said changes would only be made if the TCAP scores improved students’ final grades.
“We’re going to tabulate all TCAP scores at that point and make adjustments to grades when students would benefit,” Benson said Wednesday. “If the child’s score will be benefitted from the TCAP score, new report cards will be printed and mailed to parents.”
On Friday, Benson said a method not used in about four years to bus students to pick up their report cards only to immediately return them home appeared to work well.
“We thought that our numbers would be down on the buses a little bit, and they were, but it wasn’t bad,” Benson said. “We had a number of students who took advantage of getting off the bus, getting their report cards and getting back on.”
The state Department of Education allows systems two half days in a calendar year. In Lebanon’s case, one was used just before Christmas break, and the other was used Friday. In the past four years, Benson said the last day of school fell on a Saturday, and buses weren’t used.
“We felt like, because there were a number of students who took advantage of riding the buses to pick up their report cards, it went well,” he said. “There were still several parents who brought their children and picked up their report cards, as well.”
With Friday as an official day on the calendar at Lebanon schools, Benson said attendance would be taken from the report cards picked up by students and parents.
“That’s how we do attendance on the last day,” Benson said. “It was considered the last day and a half day. Those count as a day of school.”
Benson said the board would review the number of students who used buses Friday to pick up report cards and determine whether it’s cost prohibitive to continue it in the future.
“We’ve had those conversations, and this is what we have always done is have a report card day at the end of the year,” he said. “We will evaluate that number and look at it to see what the best plan is for next year.”
Wilson County Schools will still be in session next week and have a teacher workday Friday.
According to a press release from the school system, “at this time we are not changing our initial plan for the calculation of grades and the release of report cards.”
Report cards for Wilson kindergarteners and first graders will be mailed home after Friday’s teacher workday. Report cards for students in all other grades will be available on the Parent Connect system also after Friday.
Because Parent Connect might not be accessible for some, schools will also mail out report cards if a parent sends a self-addressed stamped envelope to the respective school by Thursday.
The release of the TCAP scores comes after the Department of Education alerted school districts at the last minute Tuesday that TCAP scores wouldn’t be ready in time to go on final report cards for many of them.