County schools’ TCAP scores show drop
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
Aug 03, 2014 | 1475 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Editor’s note: This is the first of two articles that will explain local students’ test scores. An article focusing on Cleveland City Schools will be published at a later date.

The Tennessee Department of Education has released the system-level scores of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests for 2014, and the Bradley County school system saw a drop from last year’s performance.

Bradley County Schools saw decreases in scores in several different areas, something Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said has been a problem for school leaders statewide.

The TCAP is a group of standardized tests that measure how students do in required school subjects. Students in third through eighth-grade take the TCAP Achievement Test, while high school students take end-of-course TCAP exams. Younger students are not tested the same way.

With the implementation of Common Core state standards statewide, state legislators have been discussing when a new set of tests will be put in place to update how students are evaluated.

However, it was decided during the most recent General Assembly that TCAP will continue to be offered to students through the end of the 2014-2015 school year, according to the state department of education’s website.

McDaniel attributes the Bradley County school system’s test scores to there being a difference between what students learned under the Common Core standards and what they were evaluated upon as part of tests that came out before the Common Core standards did.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman expressed the same sentiment in a recent press announcement.

“Students are learning to do more advanced writing, citing evidence from the text and showing their work in math, and we know that this work is important to get our students ready for post-secondary opportunities and the workforce,” Huffman said.

“While the TCAP remains a multiple choice test that doesn’t reach all of these skills, we are pleased there continues to be progress in most subject areas.“

The recently released TCAP scores show the percentages of students said to have mastery of the subject matter that is “below basic,” “basic,” “proficient” or “advanced.” 

The 2013-2014 scores for Bradley County students in ninth through 12 grades were: 

- Algebra I: 12.6 percent “below basic,” 23 percent “basic,” 27.1 percent “proficient” and 37.7 percent “advanced,” with a 4.1 percent decrease from last year’s scores;  

- Algebra II: 20.5 percent “below basic,” 36.2 percent “basic,” 30.2 percent “proficient” and 13.1 percent “advanced,” with a 4.2 percent decrease;  

- Biology I: 11.2 percent “below basic,” 22.2 percent “basic,” 49.7 percent “proficient” and 16.9 percent “advanced,” with a 1.6 percent decrease;  

- English I: 6.1 percent “below basic,” 21.6 percent “basic,” 59.5 percent “proficient” and 12.8 percent “advanced,” with a 1.1 percent increase;  

- English II: 11.1 percent “below basic,” 23.1 percent “basic,” 55.1 percent “proficient” and 10.7 percent “advanced,” with a 5.4 percent increase;  

- English III: 20.4 percent “below basic,” 44.5 percent “basic,” 28.2 percent “proficient” and 6.9 percent “advanced,” with a 7.7 percent decrease;  

- U.S. History I: 0 percent “below basic,” 1.7 percent “basic,” 41.5 percent “proficient” and 56.8 percent “advanced,” with a 1 percent increase.  

The scores for students in the third through eighth grades were: 

- Math: 18.6 percent “below basic,” 34.9 percent “basic,” 27.1 percent “proficient” and 19.4 percent “advanced,” with a 3.9 percent decrease;  

- Reading/Language: 10.9 percent “below basic,” 36.7 percent “basic,” 42.4 percent “proficient” and 10 percent “advanced,” with a 1.5 percent decrease;  

- Science: 10.8 percent “below basic,” 23.3 percent “basic,” 49 percent “proficient” and 16.9 percent “advanced,” with a 1.3 percent increase;  

- Social Studies: 0 percent “below basic,” 11.4 percent “basic,” 47.4 percent “proficient” and 41.2 percent “advanced,” with a 2.2 percent increase.  

TCAP scores, along with scores from the K-2 Assessment Test, a test for kindergartener through second-graders that was formerly known as the SAT-10, are factored into scores that characterize the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.

The TVAAS paints a picture that is intended to evaluate the performance of each school and school system.

Last year, the Bradley County school system received a district-level score of 5, the highest score possible.

McDaniel said this year’s TCAP scores have given the district a score of 1, the lowest possible score.

He stressed the 1 represented only the 2013-2014 school year’s results and not a larger trend. He added inclement weather that required schools to reschedule the original test dates may have also had a temporary impact.

Grades for kindergarten through second were not released at the same time the scores for students in higher grades were released.

While he called the losses “disappointing,” McDaniel said it is something he and other school superintendents will be working to address over the next year.

“That is something a lot of districts across Tennessee saw,” McDaniel said. “We’re in between. We moved to new state standards, and we’ll eventually move to a new test. We will improve.” 

He said his understanding is that a new test would place more emphasis on writing responses rather than multiple choice questions. That emphasis on writing, he explained, is what students have been getting used to under the Common Core standards.

Though the scores did not show large percentages of improvement, that will be a goal for next year, McDaniel said.

Some schools do perform better than others, and he noted he has seen “pockets of excellence” in which teachers were able to make sure their students were well-prepared for the tests.

He said he wants to give successful teachers the opportunity to share their strategies with other teachers.

“We’re going to continue to provide training to our teachers,” McDaniel said. “There’s some adjusting and learning we have to do.”