Report shows Hamilton County students still lagging behind Tennessee peers

Report shows Hamilton County students still lagging behind Tennessee peers

Less than 33 percent of county elementary, middle school students read at grade level

January 10th, 2018 by Meghan Mangrum in Breaking News

Graduating seniors listen to a speaker during East Ridge High School's 2014 commencement ceremony at Memorial Auditorium in Chattanooga.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Hamilton County graduation rates

  • 2012-2013: 84.5 percent
  • 2013-2014: 82.6 percent
  • 2014-2015: 85.4 percent
  • 2015-2016: 83.8 percent
  • 2016-2017: 84.6 percent

The Hamilton County school system is seeing slow, but steady, growth in overall student performance, but it still lags behind the state in several key areas, according to the state Department of Education's annual State Report Card released Wednesday.

The annual Report Card gives insight into state, district and individual schools' performance including data on student enrollment, graduation rates, HOPE scholarship eligibility, TNReady assessment scores and more.

According to 2016-2017 data, less than one third — or 31.5 percent — of elementary and middle school students in Hamilton County were at or above grade level in reading. In math, Hamilton County students are on par with the statewide average, although that means only 38.2 percent of them were at or above grade level in math.

The district's average composite ACT score just barely increased to a 19.9, falling just short of the average score across the state of a 20.1 for the class of 2017. Hamilton County's ACT scores have steadily increased over the past several years and on average Hamilton County students are scoring above a 20 on reading and science portions of the test.

State education officials celebrated the overall state graduation rate, which at 89.1 percent is the highest on record and has increased 3.6 percentage points since the 2010-11 school year when the state transitioned to a more rigorous calculation for graduation rates. Hamilton County's graduation rate falls significantly behind the state's average at 84.6 percent.

Hamilton County's slow improvement comes after several years of district turnover, assessment changes and a changing student body.

In the past five years, the number of students participating in the English Language Learners program has increased, as well as the proportion of minority students in the district.

Hamilton County student demographics

  • Asian: 2.6 percent
  • Black African American: 30.5 percent
  • Hispanic or Latino: 11.8 percent
  • Native American/Alaskan: 0.2 percent
  • White: 54.8 percent
  • English Language Learners: 6.3 percent
  • Considered economically disadvantaged: 37.3 percent
  • Students with disabilities: 12.8 percent

Eighth grader Aric Moses (center) works on a writing exercise in Carl Knight Jr.'s reading and language arts class last year. Dalewood Middle School is one of several iZone schools in the Hamilton County System working to improve test scores.

Eighth grader Aric Moses (center) works on a...

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

Due to Hamilton County's slight improvements, the state ranked the district as "Achieving" under the new accountability model of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the most recent federal education law. An 'achieving' district is one of four distinctions a district can receive and means the district is "meeting the growth expectation for all students and historically underserved student groups, on average," according to the state education department's guidelines.

The state also recognizes annually the top 10 percent of schools. This year, five Hamilton County schools were designated reward schools: Lookout Mountain Elementary, Nolan Elementary, STEM School Chattanooga, East Ridge Middle School and Thrasher Elementary.

"We are excited about the gains we have made ranking our schools as "Achieving" and just short of the top level of "Exemplary" in state rankings which moves us one step closer to becoming the fastest improving school district in Tennessee," Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson said via a prepared statement. "We will continue to learn from the areas in which we have experienced success and also those areas we were not where we want to be as a system to accelerate improvements across the district and ensure that every child in Hamilton County Schools graduates prepared for success after graduation,"

The report card is intended by the state to provide transparency on various areas of achievement and provides annual updates for data points and metrics. This year, the report card also shows the full set of TNReady state assessment results for students in grades 2-12.

"The Report Card is a tool with an exciting new look that is provided by the state to help our parents and community to understand the progress being made in our schools," Johnson said. "It is my hope that the report helps us to strengthen our relationships with parents and the community as we work together to reach new heights of success for our children and a brighter future for Chattanooga and Hamilton County."

TNReady replaced the TCAP assessment in 2014, but a string of testing issues and controversies has made data from year to year difficult to track. This year's results are the first full set of TNReady results available.

Last fall, the Times Free Press reported on preliminary TNReady results data.

For grades 3-8, performance on TNReady is categorized into four ranks: mastered grade level, on grade level, approaching grade level and below grade level. Students who score in the top two categories are considered to be meeting or exceeding expectations.

In math, 28.1 percent of Hamilton County elementary and middle school students scored below grade level compared to only 25.9 percent of Tennessee students overall. Another 33.7 percent of the district's students are approaching grade level compared to 36.1 percent for the state.

The story is similar for other subjects. Only 31.5 percent of Hamilton County students scored on track or better in English language arts, compared with 33.8 percent of students statewide. More than half of Hamilton County students are meeting expectations in science, but 20.5 percent of students tested below grade level — 3.3 percent more than the state number.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said she was satisfied with the overall improvement of the state during the 2016-2017 school year.

"We have much to be proud of from this past year, and the Report Card allows us to once again celebrate the successes of our schools, like graduation rate and ACT scores, while seeing where we can grow and improve," McQueen said in a statement. "The state Report Card provides a clear picture for parents, educators, and communities to see how our schools are performing, locally and across the state."

The Report Card can be viewed online at tn.gov/education/data/report-card.html.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

Key data points by district

STATEWIDE AVERAGES

  • Graduation Rate: 89.1 percent
  • Composite ACT score: 20.1
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in reading: 33.8 percent
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in math: 38 percent
BLEDSOE COUNTY
  • District is Achieving
  • Graduation Rate: 85.1 percent
  • Composite ACT score: 18.1
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in reading: 26.6 percent
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in math: 26.2 percent

BRADLEY COUNTY
  • District is Achieving
  • Graduation Rate: 91.7 percent
  • Composite ACT score: 20.3
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in reading: 35.5 percent
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in math: 39.9 percent

HAMILTON COUNTY
  • District is Achieving
  • Graduation Rate: 84.6 percent
  • Composite ACT score: 19.9
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in reading: 31.5 percent
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in math: 38.2 percent

MARION COUNTY
  • District is Achieving
  • Graduation Rate: 87.3 percent
  • Composite ACT score: 19.2
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in reading: 30.4 percent
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in math: 31.6 percent

MEGIS COUNTY
  • District is Progressing
  • Graduation Rate: 96.9 percent
  • Composite ACT score: 20.6
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in reading: 29.3 percent
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in math: 35.2 percent

RHEA COUNTY
  • District Needs Improvement
  • Graduation Rate: 87.2 percent
  • Composite ACT score: 18.6
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in reading: 33 percent
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in math: 39.6 percent

SEQUATCHIE COUNTY
  • District is Achieving
  • Graduation Rate: 86.4 percent
  • Composite ACT score: 20.6
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in reading: 25.7 percent
  • Percentage of 3-8 graders at or above grade level in math: 24.6 percent


This story was updated Jan. 10, 2018, at 11:33 p.m. with more information.


Loading...