Hamilton County Schools' results on the spring 2021 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests are truly a good news/bad news scenario.
The good news is the county outperformed the state in 24 of 28 tested areas, a mammoth jump from outperforming the state in three of 21 tested areas during the 2016-2017 year, the last one before the arrival of now-outgoing Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson.
The bad news is that, overall, math and English proficiency scores dropped for the district.
If we weren't in the middle of a global pandemic, the bad news would be the big news because going backward is rarely the right direction. But scores dropped all across the state — and country for that matter — because so many students were forced to attend class remotely late in the 2019-2020 school year and for part of the 2020-2021 year.
Johnson, who leaves next week for a job in the private sector, said Hamilton County should use the scores as a baseline and never look back.
"We should never go back to where [we were]," he said. "We should be outperforming the state, and we're in position to do that."
Nakia Towns, the district's incoming interim superintendent, said the resiliency by the district's teachers and administrators, the programs the schools put in place, and the assistance of laptops and internet service from local businesses worked together to keep the district's declines less than the state's.
Of particular note are the excellent scores by the district's youngest learners, the increase in English/language arts scores by third-graders (a critical checkpoint) and a 22.9% swing in high school U.S. history proficiency from 2016 to 2021.
Math scores, particularly by middle schoolers, remain a challenge.
While the district outperforming the state in so many areas is important, also critical will be the revelation of school-level scores next month. Those scores will show whether schools that have struggled during Johnson's tenure enjoyed the same recent improvement as other schools.
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