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Shelby County Schools report cards will not count TCAP, despite earlier-than-expected release of TCAP scores

Shelby County Schools students’ scores on state tests still won’t be factored into their final grades although the state has released the scores earlier than the initial 10-day delay it announced last Tuesday.

District spokeswoman Stefani Everson said the state release of student test scores did not change the district’s plan. Shelby County Schools filed for a waiver from the state law, which requires that Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP, tests count 15 to 25 percent of a students’ final grade. The waiver allowed the district to process students’ final grades without factoring in how well they performed in their language arts, math, social studies and science state tests, which are given annually.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said Tuesday night there wasn’t enough time to include TCAP scores in student report cards.

“We needed to get grades out on Friday,” Hopson said. Shelby County School students performance on TCAP counts 15 percent of their final grade in language arts, math, science and social studies.

Although the TCAP scores won’t affect Shelby County School students, value-added scores will still factor into teacher evaluations.

“There’s always going to be a flaw in something,” said Hopson about the accountability changes for students this year.

The delay affected the state’s third through eighth grade students, who took the state tests in late April.

State officials said the reason for the delay was due to efforts to narrow and eliminate focus areas not aligned to state standards.

As of Friday, 104 school districts had been granted exemptions from the four-year-old law designed to make TCAP testing more meaningful to students, according to an article by The Tennessean.

Now that the scores are released, some districts could decide to relinquish their waivers in order to include the results in students’ grades.

“While we had anticipated it might take longer for their review, the review is complete and we want to put them in your hands as quickly as possible,” said Erin O’Hara in a letter to district officials on Friday. O’Hara is the assistant commissioner of data and research. “We know that the delay of several days caused some significant operational and planning challenges for you, and while the opportunity to receive a waiver from the state helped, it did not fully mitigate the challenges you faced. I am sorry that the delay put you in this position. We are relieved that the post-equating process, led and verified by outside experts, showed that the tests are fair, accurate and comparable to previous years.”

In 2012, a state law went into effect that required students’ state test scores to count between 15 to 25 percent of their final grades. The rationale behind the decision was to increase student accountability since teacher evaluations would include student growth scores (value-added) and achievement scores.

Shelby County, along with several other school districts in the state, applied for a waiver from the state law to allow student grades to be finalized without state test scores. Other districts in the state are opting to wait on the state to release TCAP scores, which could take 10 days. The result will be in those districts that students will receive their report cards later than usual.

“This delay is unacceptable and further illustrates the many consequences of making a one-time standardized test the be-all, end-all for our students and teachers,” Gera Summerford, Tennessee Education Association president and Sevier County math teacher said in a statement. “School districts being unable to calculate final grades creates a domino effect of problems for everyone from the local director of schools right down to the students.”

Other districts seeking the waiver include Murfreesboro, Sumner County, Knox County and Metro Nashville, according to The Tennessean.

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at tcheshier@chalkbeat.org and (901) 730-4013.

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