How should we continue strengthening ways to measure student progress toward meeting state academic standards?
Over the last several years, Tennessee has made great progress toward higher standards and aligned assessments. The state should continue on the path to implementing TNReady and other high quality assessments. The state should ensure that 2015–16 is the only year in which educators, schools, and districts are not held accountable for student performance.
How could we strengthen the current state assessment system?
Tennessee should fully implement TNReady and should avoid additional changes to assessments for the next several years. The state should ensure that schools and districts are accountable for the performance of all students. This includes requiring schools to test all students through enforcement of the 95 percent participation rule and clear consequences for failure to meet this requirement for one or more groups of students. In addition, the state should not allow opt-out of assessments.
Given that Tennessee’s district accountability system is new, how might we strengthen it?
The state must hold districts accountable for underperforming subgroups and establish clear metrics and reporting. The state should strengthen supports for ELs and must identify long-term ELs, with supports and interventions for schools who continue to have long-term ELs. ELs must be tested yearly for proficiency and growth and count in the accountability system in their third year. The department should establish a clear definition of a subgroup for purposes of disaggregation in reporting.
What other system quality measure might you include in the district accountability framework?
The department should consider additional indicators that are highly correlated with academic success and that are focused on student outcomes, aligned with postsecondary readiness, carry the weight of accountability, and do not not reinforces issues related to poverty. Indicators must be measurable, in that the indicator is valid, reliable and stable. It must utilize evidence that demonstrates how it will positively impact student outcomes, and ensure differentiation between schools.
What measures of school quality or student success should be included in the school accountability framework?
Measures should demonstrate post-secondary readiness. The department should hold schools accountable for the performance of as many students as possible, including small subgroups of students. The department should reduce the required N size below 30 students. Schools should be required to have goals for each subgroup rather than only decreasing gaps within a school. A school should be unable to receive a high rating if a subgroup is consistently underperforming for two+ consecutive years.
How can the department support the use of evidence-based strategies for school turnarounds in a way that both provides districts with structure and guidelines while providing them as much flexibility as possible?
State, district and school personnel should be allowed to submit strategies to a state-level “what works” compendium for school turnaround. These strategies, which are informed by school need, available resource and support, should be adopted by the school staff and be aligned to interim and long-term goals. Schools must show progress toward goals and demonstrate connections between progress and the adopted strategies.
Tennessee also has the option to provide some or all turnaround services via a statewide system of support. What do district and schools most need from a statewide turnaround support system?
Schools and districts need specific strategies, offered through embedded trainings and in-person assistance occurring as close to the group of students needing assistance as possible. The state should identify best practices in high performing schools and schools with high performing subgroups of students and share those practices with the specific implementation strategies that educators need in classrooms. Turnaround schools need additional time for teacher development and training.
Support for all students
How should the state’s accountability and education systems, particularly at the school level, factor in English language proficiency? For example, what should be the entry and exit criteria for English learners, supports that should be offered for English learners, and reporting requirements?
The state should annually measure and hold schools and districts accountable for the combination of time to proficiency, the level of proficiency, and the level of achievement in reading and math. The state should elect the option that does not hold schools fully accountable for EL students until year 3 of testing. TN should establish a timeline for proficiency of 5 years and create a system to monitor and intervene in schools with long-term ELs.
How can Tennessee best support a well-rounded education within the requirements of the law? For example, how should Tennessee’s accountability and education systems take into account providing a healthy and safe school environment or integration of technology?
The State should use whole school climate surveys for students and teachers that are reliable, and anonymous. Schools should have established physical health goals and whole school strategies to reach those goals. Schools and districts must have comprehensive technology plans developed by staff and community partners, and provide training and support to teachers in order to utilize technology in instruction.
How should our state encourage equitable access to highly effective teachers for all students?
The state should implement the Teacher Equity Plan that was developed in 2015, and set ambitious targets and timeline. The department should hold districts accountable for the equitable distribution of high quality teachers within and across schools by including a measure of equitable distribution within the district accountability system. The department should also attempt to measure and report on the diversity of teachers and relationship to student diversity.
Which, if any, innovative ESSA programs should Tennessee consider? (e.g. the innovative assessment pilot, student-based budgeting, teacher and school leader preparation academies, or others)
The department should maintain focus on success within the current framework for assessment. The state should not adopt a national end of course test for high school students. The department should pilot student-based budeting in schools and districts interested in participating and move toward a full system of student based budgeting within five years. The state should opt to establish family resource centers, and utilize funding to partner with community organizations that support families.
What do you like most about Tennessee’s schools?
At your discretion.
Do you have any additional input for Tennessee’s ESSA plan?
The state should report more than per pupil funding as the only metric for resource inequality. The state should measure and report on resource inequality across districts, within districts, and between groups of students within districts and schools. These resources should include measures of effective teaching and leadership, time spent in class, and access to rigorous coursework. This information must be disaggregated by race, ethnicity, language and disability status, and income.