Despite problems with the implementation of the TNReady testing in schools across Tennessee last year, Wilson County and Lebanon school district leaders say the numbers for both districts showed promise.
Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said she is pleased with the test results.
“Our teachers, administrators and students worked extremely hard last year,” Wright said. “Obviously, the TNReady testing administration had its share of complications last spring, but our students and teachers persevered. We’re excited to see that students in this county continue to perform above state averages, while also closing the achievement gaps in multiple subgroups.”
Wilson County Schools ranked ninth statewide with 50.1 percent of the students mastered their areas of testing. Students also improved 7.3 percent compared to the year and ranked sixth in the state.
Performance gaps in third- through fifth-grade English language arts in Wilson County also narrowed for students in historically underserved populations, including English learners, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged and students who are Black, Hispanic or Native American.
High school science scores increased by 4.6 percent in the county. Wilson County students are among the top 10 districts school districts in Tennessee for science improvement.
The percentage of high school math students that scored “on track” and “mastered,” increased by 4.3 percent, compared to a state increase of 1 percent. In contrast to the state results, Wilson County students in sixth through eighth grades demonstrated an increase in math proficiency. Scores in third- through fifth-grade math remained constant last year compared to the previous year.
Also in Wilson County Schools, comparable to the decline the state experienced, Wilson County also showed a decrease in the percentage of students scoring “on track” or “mastered” in both high school ELA and sixth- through eighth-grade ELA.
“According to the Tennessee Department of Education release, only 20 percent of districts improved in the majority of subjects and grades,” said Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson. “I’m encouraged that LSSD not only showed an increase in the percentage of students scoring on-track and mastery in a majority of the subjects and grades, but we improved in all third- through eighth-grade category subject areas – math, ELA and science. With the varied nature of results across the state, LSSD can be proud of our students and teachers for showing improvement over last year in every third- through eighth-grade category.
“Even though we are encouraged by our improvement in achievement, I will look forward to the release of our TVASS growth scores in the coming weeks – as this is typically where LSSD receives our highest scores. In the past, our growth scores have propelled us to be named an exemplary school district in 2017.
“We are excited about beginning the 2018-19 school year and the opportunity to further our goal of improving the achievement and growth scores for all students.”
In Lebanon schools, all students in third- through fifth-grade ELA testing raised the level mastered to a 3.1 percent increase. The Asian subgroup increased its proficiency by 6.8 percent., However, some subgroups were down in numbers such as African American in third- through fifth-grade ELA, down 1.5 percent. English learners in the same testing numbers were down .9 percent.
In ELA third through eighth grades, all students scored .5 percent higher in the mastered areas. However, African Americans decreased 2.5 percent, and Native Americans decreased 4.3 percent.
In third- through fifth-grade math, Asian decreased 3.8 percent while the overall all students group increased 3.8 percent. The Hispanic subgroup increased 10.9 percent in third- through fifth-grade math. English learners increased 8.6 percent in third- through fifth-grade math.
In sixth- through eighth-grade math, all students increased 2.6 percent. In third- through fifth-grade science, English learners increased 13.7 percent. The all-students group was even at 0 percent proficiency in sixth- through eighth-grade science.
According to Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, students in historically disadvantaged student groups also showed notable progress. Gaps between student groups narrowed in multiple areas, and students in Priority schools – including the Achievement School District – grew faster than their non-Priority school peers nearly across the board.
The results also show areas for needed focus, especially in middle school, where all subject areas showed a decline in overall performance, she said.
Additionally, students across the board saw declines in science, which reinforces the need to support teachers as they transition to new science standards and a new science test in 2018-19. At the district level, all but three districts increased proficiency areas in at least one content area or grade band, but only 20% of districts improved in a majority of subjects and grades – highlighting the varied nature of the results.
“We see reason to be encouraged, but we also have a lot of work to do to meet our higher expectations for all students,” McQueen said. “While we’ve focused extensively on early grades reading and are starting to see a shift in the right direction, we know middle school remains a statewide challenge across the board. TNReady serves as a vital feedback loop for teachers, parents, and administrators to tell us where we are, and the results inform what steps we need to take to help all students and schools succeed. We are committed to improving implementation of TNReady so that parents, educators, and the department can continue to know how our students are doing each year.”
The tests are not being utilized for or against student’s grades because of the problems with the TNReady testing. Over the three-week testing period, there were multiple challenges including problems logging into the testing platform and submitting completed tests.
In response to these issues, the Tennessee Department of Education hired a third-party expert to analyze the results to determine whether the disruptions impacted the scores, and also clarify how the scores were impacted. The analysis found that the disruptions had minimal, if any, impact on the overall scores.
This analysis was only designed to examine technical aspects. Other factors like, student motivation, heightened media coverage, and legislation around assessment.