The Tennessee Department of Education has released a new online report card to share school and district ratings, as well as information on how to understand the new ratings system. This valuable tool gives families, communities, and educators information on how well schools are preparing all students for success, based on the new measures in the ESSA state plan. As you get acquainted with the new ratings system, here are 10 important questions to consider:
- Why does Tennessee have a new school and district rating system?
Beginning in December 2018, a new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to evaluate every K-12 school on a range of measures. Learn more about ESSA and what goes into Tennessee’s rating system for schools here.
- Why is it important to measure how schools and districts are performing
Accountability systems define and set expectations for school and district success, and can serve as a tool for improving opportunity and achievement for all students by highlighting schools that are exceeding expectations, but also prompting action when schools or students fall behind.
- How is each school rated?
Each school receives a rating, ranging from 0 to 4, on a range of measures. You can think of this rating like a GPA, with a 4.0 being the highest score. But just like a GPA, the context is important—no school can be judged on a single number. Each rating is based either on how well the school is doing on that particular measure, or how much it improved in the past year. The school’s rating is based on the higher score between the two. Schools will not receive a summative rating, or a total score that combines all of the ratings together.
- Weren’t schools supposed to receive and A-F letter grade this year?
The Tennessee General Assembly prohibited the assigning of A-F letter grades for the 2017–18 school year because of the online administration challenges this year with TNReady testing. They placed a one year pause on the use of A-F letter grades to rate schools.
- Which measures receive ratings?
Schools are rated on the following measures: academic achievement in English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies, student academic growth over time, rates of chronic absenteeism (Chronically Out of School), student progress on English language proficiency, graduation rates, and how well students are prepared for postsecondary opportunities (Ready Graduate). Rating systems can provide a range of information but do not tell us the entire story of how well a school is performing.
- What additional information can I find out about my school or district with the new State Report Card?
The new state report card has information on each measure about how a school compares to its district as well as schools across Tennessee. There is also information on the number of students and teachers in every school, the demographics of the student body, and in the future you will be able to see information on how funding is allocated in the school or district. Soon, the report card will also be available in Spanish.
- What should I do if my school earns low ratings in one or more categories?
The information contained in the report card provides Tennesseans with an opportunity to have a conversation with their school principal and teachers, and to find out what the school is doing to improve, and how parents or partners can help. Families can offer to serve on school improvement teams, or to provide input through parent meetings.
- Why does the new rating system provide information about specific student groups
The federal ESSA law, as well as the Tennessee ESSA Plan, requires schools and districts to report how specific groups of students are performing at their schools. These groups include students who are economically disadvantaged, students who are Black, Hispanic or Native American, students who are learning English, and students who have a disability. Breaking out, or disaggregating, their progress on each measure allows schools and families the opportunity see how well all students are performing, identify gaps, and work to reduce or eliminate them.
- How long will my school or district maintain these ratings?
The Tennessee Report Cards will be updated every year with new data, and will incorporate new measures in the coming years. The ratings will change every year, so it will be important to visit the report card page annually.
- Where can I learn more about my school or district report card?
The Tennessee Department of Education has more information about the report cards on their website, and our Equity Coalition will host a webinar on the report cards and what they mean for schools, students and families. You can register to attend the webinar, or watch a recording at a time of your convenience.