Who Needs To Work Harder?

Friday, May 23, 2014

On Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Education announced that 3rd through 8th grade Quick Scores, the portion of students’ final grades that come from TCAP testing as mandated by state law, would not be available until May 30. This means that elementary and middle schools across the state will either fail to follow the legal reporting standards or will be required to distribute final report cards twice in one month.

“We are extremely disappointed in the Tennessee Department of Education.  The ‘rules’ associated with testing did not change between this year and last.  But, while results available last year were returned in a timely manner, the same could not be accomplished this year. This delay will impact teachers, parents and students with scheduling classes and placing students in appropriate classes,” said J.C. Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Additionally, many systems have released for the summer.  This decision by the state will require many teachers to return to school to recalculate final grades and release report cards again, adding costs at the end of the school year when money is the tightest.

A concern of many educators, though, is why the scores are delayed.  The official reasoning from the state is that the scores are being “post-equated.”  Statistically speaking, this process ensures that any given test is valid and serves its intended purpose.  In years’ prior, this process was done after Quick Scores are reported and final report cards are distributed. This raises doubts for educators about the validity of this year’s assessment, given the number of changes made to testing for this school year.  The number of tested SPIs and overall number of test items dropped, making it harder for students to score proficient on tests where the proficiency cut off has been gradually rising over the past five years. What do the scores look like that requires this process to be done now and not later?

Another concern is the fact that districts are required to apply for waivers from the state. When a good teacher makes a mistake or changes the parameters of an assignment, he or she gives students the extra support that they need to complete their tasks with the new information. “That’s what leaders do,” according to Director of Tullahoma City Schools Dan Lawson. “When the state fails to provide test scores in a timely manner consistent with Tennessee statute, they should waive the accountability requirements for this reporting cycle automatically without requiring school districts to jump through any additional hoops,” posits Mr. Lawson.

Placing extra work on systems for a state error is the height of poor leadership.  Where is the accountability for this situation?  Where is the leadership from the DOE?  Where is the support for districts?  Where is the support for educators?  It seems that there are many questions that this situation raises, but the most pressing is this: when Commissioner Kevin Huffman said earlier this week that adults needed to work harder, did he mean educators or his staff? 

Cathy Kolb and Samantha Bates

Cathy Kolb is the president of Professional Educators of Tennessee and Middle School Teacher of the Year for Clarksville-Montgomery Schools.  Samantha Bates is the director of Member Services for Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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