On Friday, Tennessee will release its first batch of scores from the state’s new, and supposedly harder, standardized test.
The 2015-16 TNReady scores for high school students will offer the first snapshot of performance on math and English as the state seeks to raise the bar on classroom rigor and grading. State officials have warned that scores on the new test will be lower at first — but will give students (and their parents) a better picture of where they stand academically.
The Tennessee Department of Education will release scores in three batches, beginning this week with a breakdown for the whole state. In the coming weeks, the state will release each district’s scores, and finally, each school’s performance.
Here are four things to expect:
- Only high school students will receive scores. That’s because state officials canceled the second half of the assessment for grades 3-8 last spring after the rollout of TNReady was plagued by technical and logistical problems. Elementary and middle school students took Part I of TNReady but won’t receive those scores. However, their schools are receiving students’ raw scores showing what they got right and wrong on Part I. State officials hope teachers and administrators can use those results to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses.
- More students will score below-grade level. When the State Board of Education approved “cut scores” last month to determine what constitutes a passing grade, the breakdown had as few as a quarter of students scoring on grade level in some subjects. In the previous year, passing rates hovered closer to the 50 percent mark. The test is supposed to be harder than previous assessments because it’s the first one aligned with the current Common Core State Standards. Adopted by Tennessee in 2010, the standards were intended to be more rigorous and better aligned with college readiness. Accordingly, TNReady has more open-ended questions and less multiple-choice ones — making it “harder to game,” according to Education Commissioner Candice McQueen.
- The score reports will look different. This year’s scores will no longer be categorized as advanced (4), proficient (3), basic (2), or below basic (1). The state has rebranded performance levels as mastered, on-track, approaching grade level, and below grade-level. And under a redesigned score report unveiled last month, state officials say students, parents and educators should better understand what student scores say about their college readiness. The reports also will offer next steps for improvement.
- These scores won’t be included in students’ grades from last year. Students got their report cards for the 2015-16 school year months ago, meaning these scores come too late. Because TNReady is a new test, a panel of teachers had to review students’ answers and determine what was considered grade-level. In the future, TNReady scores will be phased into students’ grades.