Hamilton County Schools again received the lowest possible composite score on an annual state assessment that measures student growth, a sign that the district still has a long, hard road ahead to improvement.
The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment Scores measures student growth year over year by looking at student performance in five subject areas: literacy and numeracy, science and social studies.
Student growth in each subject for the 2016-2017 school year was scored from one to five, with five being the highest. With the exception of literacy, which earned a five and showed improvement "significantly above expectation," Hamilton County Schools received a one in every category.
"We've got work to do," Superintendent Bryan Johnson said. "We've got to look very deeply at the way in which we're organized to make sure we're supporting our schools in as efficient and effective a manner as possible."
"The reality is our composite is a one and a one states that we are significantly below the expectations, and that's not where we want to be."
Overall TVAAS local scores, with 5 being the highest:› 5: 23 schools› 4: 5 schools› 3: 15 schools› 2: 4 schools› 1: 30 schools
The district received an overall score of two last year after receiving a one the year before. This year's backslide marks the third year in a row that student growth has been below average.
"We have to improve. We cannot continue this trend," Johnson said. "We have to improve with urgency and we will improve with urgency, because students are at the core of the number."
This is the second year in a row Hamilton County Schools has posted a TVAAS score of five in literacy despite a low overall score. Last year, then- Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly said the high literacy score showed the district could "make positive gains," but instead student improvement has remained low.
"TVAAS measures student growth, regardless of whether a student is proficient on the state assessment," said Chandler Hopper, deputy director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Education. "In a case like [Hamilton County's] results, even though there was the exception in literacy, the overall composite is still a one, which means there was significant evidence that across all subject areas, students tended to not meet the growth standard that was expected."
"If students tended to grow at about the same rate as their peers across the state - the expected amount of growth - the district would earn a three. If students grew faster than their peers, a student would earn a four or a five, depending on the amount of progress they showed. If they did not show as much growth as their peers, they would earn a one or a two."
Of particular concern in Hamilton County are the iZone schools - Brainerd High, Dalewood Middle, Woodmore Elementary, Orchard Knob Middle and Orchard Knob Elementary - each of which received a one for its composite score.
In addition, 10 of the 12 schools that make up the Opportunity Zone showed below-average improvement. The Opportunity Zone is a strategy introduced by Johnson to assist the county's struggling schools by providing more staff, targeted support and a heightened urgency for improvement.
While Brainerd High, Hardy Elementary and Orchard Knob Middle all received ones in every category, other schools had outcomes on the other end of the spectrum. Apison Elementary, East Lake Elementary, Ganns Middle Valley Elementary, Loftis Middle, Thrasher Elementary, Wallace A. Smith Elementary and Westview Elementary received fives in all tested subjects.
Johnson, who took over the reins as superintendent this summer, said the disparity among school performance is a problem.
"What's concerning to me is the fact that we have so many schools performing on both ends of the spectrum," he said. "You've got schools that are doing really well and some that are doing not so well."
He said he will be working to bring schools' performances in line with one another, reducing variability among schools and working with educators to break the cycle of underperformance.
"The goal is not to make everybody the same. You want to guarantee a high-quality education at every school. The number is just a single indicator of what happens in our school buildings every day," he said.
"It's one of many indicators, but it is an indicator."
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.