In the face of new academic standards, teachers say it is more important than ever to make sure students understand what they're learning and aren't being left behind.
That's especially crucial in a subject such as math, where concepts build on each other.
So with the help of a $75,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ninth- and 10th-grade teachers at Red Bank High School, Tyner Academy and East Hamilton School will get technology and training to help students take special tests, known as formative assessments, that are given throughout the year.
Teachers also will learn how to use the test results to adjust their teaching for particular students who may need help.
The grant is designed to improve college readiness in mathematics and ACT math scores.
Hamilton County's Superintendent Jim Scales said the plan is for the 24 teachers who are trained to then come back and teach other high school math teachers.
The training is designed to mesh with new statewide curriculum and graduation requirements that were unveiled this school year and begin with this year's ninth-grade class.
Red Bank principal Gail Chuy said administrators have been using the formative assessments for several years, but the latest batch of math tests are aligned with the new standards.
"You gauge how your teaching is going and if the students are getting it, so you can figure out how fast you need to go," she said. "If someone hasn't gotten it, maybe you have to back up and teach it another way."
Formative tests are different than end-of-course or Gateway exams, Ms. Chuy said, because those are designed just to show what students have learned in a year, rather than to guide instruction.
The new state tests will emphasize real-world problem-solving skills in math, and the new tests will help make sure students are grasping the concepts, officials said.
"The idea is to gauge how students are progressing through the curriculum in relation to the new state standards, which are much tougher," said Ava Warren, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction with Hamilton County Schools. "Critical thinking is a necessary skill for success on the ACT. These assessments will help teachers see which students have those skills."