Hamilton County Schools district-level TVAAS scores
- Composite: 3
- Literacy: 5
- Numeracy: 1
- Literacy and Numeracy: 4
- Science: 3
- Social Studies: 4
- Composite: 1
- Literacy: 5
- Numeracy: 1
- Literacy and Numeracy: 1
- Science: 1
- Social Studies: 1
*Data provided by the Tennessee Department of Education, 2017 and 2018
Overall, Hamilton County schools are meeting expectations when it comes to student growth and performance, according to data released last week by the Tennessee Department of Education.
Gaps remain, however.
Though Hamilton County Schools received an overall Tennessee Value-Added Assessment (TVAAS) composite score of 3 out of 5, half of the district's schools are not meeting student growth expectations.
Student performance also remains low in math, particularly in Algebra I, district administrators say, earning the district a score of 1 out of 5.
Though the district has much to celebrate that administrators attribute to changes in leadership and how teachers are supported in the classroom, there are improvements to be made.
"We are encouraged by what we did, but it's not a satisfaction," Superintendent Bryan Johnson said of the district's highest score in five years. "We did what we should have done. Every student should experience a year of growth every year. It's been a while since that's happened, but it's what should be happening."
The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment Scores measure student growth year over year by looking at student performance in five subject areas: literacy and numeracy (ranked individually and together to make a third subject area), science and social studies.
Student growth in each subject for the 2017-2018 school year was scored from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. A score of 3 indicates that students at that school or in that district are meeting expected amounts of student growth each year.
Individual schools also are ranked.
Overall, this is how Hamilton County's schools ranked in student growth:
- 25 schools earned a composite score of 5
- 26 schools earned a composite score of 1.
- 1/3 of high schools earned a composite score of 1.
- 11 elementary schools earned a composite score of 5, 10 earned a 3 and 15 earned a 1.
Gaps in performance
Student growth and performance in the district's high schools most drastically reflect the gap in student performance between schools.
District leaders pointed to Red Bank High School as an example of improved performance — the school has increased student growth each year, moving from a 4 to a 5 in the 2017-18 school year.
But schools like the two high schools in the Opportunity Zone, Brainerd High School and The Howard School, remain at a 1.
More than half of the district's high schools are not meeting student growth targets, and areas of struggle include numeracy (math) and U.S. History.
Overall across the district, scores in every subject area but literacy were a 1 for high school students.
Johnson and Chief of Schools Justin Robertson note the variability across the district was the impetus for the district's dramatic reorganization into five learning communities over the past several months.
"I attribute it to being a large district and it's hard to get consistency across the district," Robertson said of the range of scores. "It goes back to how we support schools. How do we highlight what's going well and push that out in a quick manner? This isn't new, that's something we knew was coming and the reason why the reorganization took place."
The new learning communities split the district into five areas, each supported by an executive director and staff from the district's teaching and learning department.
"We have seen across the system for a number of years significant variability across the board," Johnson added. "What we want to make sure is taking place is taking these best practices and spreading them around as quickly as possible."
Robertson said one of the biggest impacts the communities will have is on professional development for teachers, which is key for how successful students are in the classroom.
In an effort to improve math scores, the district is rethinking how math, especially Algebra I, teachers are supported. Training and support sessions are taking place in smaller groups of teachers inside an actual teacher's classroom.
These "lab model" training sessions are based off what the district is already doing to improve how students are taught to read.
"We've had a [score of] 5 in literacy two years in a row now," said Jill Levine, chief of the Opportunity Zone. "As more kids become better readers, they are going to do better on tests. Elementary school students are getting a better education, a literacy education, and as they move into middle school we'll see them be better prepared."
Two years ago, the district established a clear focus, a non-negotiable way reading was taught across the district and invested in professional development and making sure teachers had enough resources to be successful when teaching reading, Levine said.
Since then, Hamilton County students in grades 3 to 8 have improved faster than the state average in literacy, scoring a 5 in literacy in 2017 and 2018.
This push, which mirrors a statewide push to improve literacy rates, is what Hamilton County school leaders credit for improved literacy score.
For math education, Robertson believes a similar approach will yield similar results.
"Although math is a struggle across the state, our approach to it right now is 'Were struggling, what are we doing to do?'" he said. "Its definitely going to be a thing we get right this year and we are going to do something different."
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.