published Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Officials again delay state report card release


by Kelli Gauthier

By the time standardized test scores are released in Tennessee, the results will be nearly a year old.

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Education announced Wednesday that the scores from the 2010 springtime Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program -- typically released in the fall -- will be delayed again, this time until mid-January.

Officials last had said the results would be released the week of Christmas, after schools and many districts already were closed for the holidays.

"We're taking every step to make sure the data is clean and pristine because it is so high stakes," said Tennessee Education Commissioner Bruce Opie. "There is absolutely no reason to try and rush and get this out now since it's so late already."

Opie said that, despite the late release of scores, he anticipated that teachers -- who normally know sometime during the first semester how their students scored on the previous spring's tests -- could use the information to guide their instruction during the second half of the school year.

One consequence of the late test scores is that students who might have been eligible to transfer from their low-performing school to a higher-performing campus -- a requirement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act -- likely will not be able to do so this year.

Some students who already had taken advantage of the option based on the previous year's test scores transferred in August. But others, who will find out in January whether their school is placed on the high-priority list, will not be eligible to switch schools midyear, officials said.

Rather than allow students to enroll in a new school, teachers at newly designated high-priority schools instead would be required to offer additional tutoring and supplemental services, said Deborah Owens, chief officer of Local Education Agency support and improvement for the Tennessee Department of Education.

The school choice change, which officials hope will affect only this academic year, is contingent on approval of a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.

"We are hopefully optimistic," Opie said of their chances for the waiver's approval. "In January or as late as February, to cause disruption in school systems ... we think the negatives of offering school choice [halfway through the school year] don't compensate for the positives."

Officials said that, because the state switched last year to more rigorous academic standards, the state board also had to set new baseline scores to determine levels of proficiency. That meeting didn't happen until late July, they said, which partly was responsible for the delay in test results.

Although the state usually releases Adequate Yearly Progress reports -- which determine the schools that are considered "high-priority" -- in August, several months before the official Report Card, both will be released together in January.

Required by No Child Left Behind, 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 standardized test scores, while high schools are measured on Gateway test 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.

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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grease said...

Where is the accountability? The only data that needs to be worked to make sure it is "pristine" is data that has been manipulated.

December 16, 2010 at 9:21 p.m.
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