State officials apologize to educators, citing miscommunication about recent TCAP results

Even as the Tennessee Department of Education has pledged to increase trust over statewide assessments, some educators have alleged that recently released scores appear to be inflated, prompting state officials to blame a miscommunication and clarify what the new scores mean.

Last week, the state released “quick scores” from this year’s TCAPs so that teachers could incorporate those preliminary achievement test scores into final grades. Educators generally were surprised that the quick scores, which by law are released weeks after students take the assessments, generally are higher than expected.

But some educators questioned whether this year’s scores were inflated to justify and affirm statewide education reforms instituted during the last five years.

State officials have since issued a letter of apology clarifying that this year’s quick scores don’t mean what they have in previous years. Until this year, quick scores were tied to performance levels used for accountability: anything below 70 meant below basic, a 70-84 was basic, 85-92 meant proficient, and 93-100 meant advanced.

Last fall, however, state officials opted against releasing performance levels with quick scores, changing the relationship between the two metrics. Thus, an 85 might not equate to “proficient.”

In a May 22 letter sent to school directors statewide, state officials acknowledged that they never formally communicated the change to district officials, though they did inform testing coordinators.

The letter was sent by Nakia Towns, assistant commissioner for data and research, and said:

“Our goal is to communicate early and often regarding the calculation and release of student assessment data. Unfortunately, it appears the office of assessment logistics did not communicate decisions made in fall 2014 regarding the release and format of quick scores for the 2014-15 school year in a timely manner. . . . We regret this oversight, and we will continue to improve our processes such that we uphold our commitment to transparency, accuracy, and timeliness with regard to data returns, even as we experience changes in personnel.”

Last year, TCAP scores caused similar confusion among local districts when the Department of Education announced that scores would be delayed, and then released them on time after all.

Here’s the clarification from the state in full:

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the 4th graf to include the correct grading scale.