By Heather Mullinix
Cumberland County schools failed to meet goals for academic achievement and to close achievement gaps for Hispanic and Asian students as well as students with disabilities.
Rebecca Wood, assistant director of curriculum instruction and accountability, briefed the Cumberland County Board of Education Thursday on the latest results released by the Tennessee Department of Education regarding test scores from the 2012-’13 school year.
“Reading and language arts is the most troubling,” Wood said. “So many grades lost ground.”
The district is already working with the state on its plan to address the findings of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program and to help students achieve proficient or mastery of academic standards and to continue supporting student academic growth. That includes development of a pacing guide for teachers that helps them ensure necessary concepts are covered. Teachers also took part in extensive training during the summer on the Common Core standards being implemented this year.
“There are lots of shifts. We want folks to be prepared to address the Common Core standards,” Wood said.
The state set annual measurable objectives that look at the proficiency targets set by the state the district is expected to reach in order to meet the mandates of Tennessee’s No Child Left Behind waiver. The schools are to focus on achievement and closing achievement gaps in subgroups.
In achievement, Cumberland County missed it’s targets in third through eighth grade reading and language arts; third grade math; and seventh grade reading and language arts.
The county met eight of it’s targets, but three of those targets were met through “safe harbor,” which allows the school system to show achievement toward the goal but not meet the goal.
The data also identify students by subgroups and compares the achievement of those subgroups to all student achievement. Areas with gaps in achievement are noted and goals set to reduce those gaps.
“Our goal is to decrease the gap,” Wood explained. “We want to bring that subgroup up to meet the rest of the students.”
Cumberland County missed nine of 12 gap closure goals, including black, Hispanic, Native American students verses all students in third through eighth grade math and reading and language arts; economically disadvantaged verses non-economically disadvantaged students in third through eighth grade reading and language arts and math; students with disabilities verses students without disabilities in math and reading and language arts for grades three through eight; black, Hispanic, Native American students verses all students in algebra 1 and 2; and students with disabilities verses students without disabilities in algebra 1 and 2 and English 2 and 3.
Also released is the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scores, which measure a student’s growth from one year to the next.
Academic growth was below what was expected for reading and language arts almost across the board, with below expected growth in grades four, five, six and seven. Fourth-grade math and sixth-grade math were also below expectations. In science, growth failed to meet expectations in grades four and six and social studies was below expected growth in grades four and six. End-of-course tests at the high school level found students failed to achieve their predicted achievement in algebra 1 and was not detectably different for English 3, English 2 and algebra 2.
Director of Schools Donald Andrews noted in his annual plan the district would work to achieve all goals as directed by the state. That includes evaluation of intervention programs and assessing student progress toward mastery of academic standards. Professional development and sharing successful strategies of schools with others in the district are also part of the plan to help support teachers.
Wood said schools were going through the data grade by grade and class by class. Among students to be identified are “bubble students,” those who were on the verge of scoring proficient or just a few points over proficient, and making sure they are helping them to progress.
Andrews noted he felt good about the direction of the school system and the changes that had been taking place in public education to address emerging technology and new educational needs.
“Teachers have been going through a transition,” Andrews said. “In many cases, they’re building the ship while it’s floating. They’re doing a wonderful job. We do have a way to go, but we’re making progress.”
More in-depth discussion of the school system’s performance on state-mandated testing is scheduled for the board’s annual retreat, set Oct. 5 at the Central Services office, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.