published Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

State officials delay AYP, test scores release again


by Kelli Gauthier

Already four months behind schedule, Tennessee school officials now have blown through their belated deadline for releasing student test scores from the spring.

This year was the first time students took new, more-challenging standardized tests, so officials knew it would take some time to set standards and cut-off scores. But it has taken even longer than they thought it would: Their most recent estimate was Dec. 1.

"We've got a whole readjustment period," said Amanda Maynord Anderson, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

Anderson said the state couldn't begin calculating results from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program and Gateway tests and end-of-course exams until July, when officials redefined what it meant for students to perform at grade level.

Although the state usually releases Adequate Yearly Progress reports several months before the official Report Card, officials plan to release both by mid-December.

Required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, AYP shows which schools and school districts made enough progress in one academic year to avoid state sanctions. Elementary and middle schools' AYP is determined by factors such as attendance and Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test scores, whereas high schools are measured on Gateway results and graduation rates.

The Report Card takes a more detailed look at each category, showing, for instance, what percentage of a school's population scored at or above grade level in math.

In previous years, AYP was based on three-year averages. This year's report will be only for the single year of data under the state's new standards and curriculum.

"Last year's students were tested on different standards and measured on a different scale. It's apples and oranges," Anderson said.

AYP AND REPORT CARD

State officials anticipate releasing Adequate Yearly Progress and the Tennessee Report Card on or around Dec. 17.

The move has local school officials concerned.

"That's going to hurt a lot of schools and districts," said Danielle Clark, spokeswoman for Hamilton County Schools. "Schools that would have made AYP, now won't, and it's going to be really tough."

But Anderson said state officials took that into account and have set the bar lower for the number of students who must be proficient.

Still, preliminary results show that fewer than half of elementary and middle school students tested at or above grade level in reading or math.

Contact Kelli Gauthier at kgauthier@timesfreepress.com or 423 757-6249. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/gauthierkelli.

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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