Nearly nine months of preparation will be under the microscope of state-administered testing that started Thursday and Friday for students in Wilson County and Lebanon city schools.
The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, most commonly known as TCAP, tests started late this week and will continue through Wednesday. This year’s round of federally mandated tests is the second under a state law that requires TCAP scores to count 20 percent of students’ final semester grade.
The law also requires teachers to be evaluated by the TCAP scores of students in their classes with performance counting 35 percent of teachers’ evaluations. After two consecutive underperforming years, teachers can be fired under the law.
Wilson County Director of Schools Mike Davis said it’s a stressful time for teachers and students alike.
“Anytime you have high-stakes testing like this, you put a lot of pressure on both the students and teachers,” Davis said. “It is a stressful time. Teachers know that 35 percent of their performance is determined from the tests.”
Davis, who accepted a director’s position with Robertson County schools last month after he announced his resignation in December, said it’s a tough call as to whether the system is the right one to evaluate both teachers and students.
“My job is not to make that decision,” Davis said. “My job is to carry out the mandates of the state. I think it’s something we’re going to have to get used to being around for a while.
“Should it be this way? Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on testing and not enough on teaching and learning.”
Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson said the focus should be on encouragement.
“It’s a stressful time,” Benson said. “If we worked all year to prepare all the students to meet the objectives, we’ve done our jobs at this point. We need to encourage our students to do the best job they can.”
Benson said each of the Lebanon schools’ teachers and administrators are focused on gap closure, which is closing the gap between lower performing students and higher performing students.
“We all have similar goals,” Benson said. “The state has annual measurable objectives it sets for us. We are trying to reach each individual student at each level so we have individual growth.”
And with Lebanon schools showing lower grades in reaching the Asian, black and limited English proficient subgroups last year, Benson said more emphasis was placed on raising those scores.
“That’s what we emphasized all along,” he said. “We are very focused.”
Wilson County’s shortfall last year was in the students with disabilities subgroup, but Davis is encouraged by what he’s seen thus far system wide.
“I think the students will perform very well on these tests especially since we have built upon what we have already done in teaching the skills,” Davis said.
“We won’t know, of course, until the data is back. We will get the quick scores about a week or two before school lets out so we can calculate the students’ final grade. We won’t get the full results back until possibly the fall, which puts us behind the eight ball in a lot of respects.”
Benson said he was encouraged on the first day of testing for Lebanon students in third- through eighth-grades.
“It was a good day today,” he said. “I talked to a few principals this afternoon and heard it was a good day of testing. We had some good reports across the district.”
TCAP testing continues through Wednesday with makeup tests to be taken Thursday.