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New standards in place for state school systems

New standards in place for state school systems
Spring is quickly approaching, and with it comes state testing in public schools. This year, test scores will establish the direction that the state of Tennessee will take with its academic goals and state standards moving forward.
The State of Tennessee is currently in the process of waiving the No Child Left Behind Act, an act first brought before Congress in 2001 by the Bush Administration. The purpose of the waiver is to achieve two major goals. The first goal was to set up achievement improvements for all students, and the second being to close the achievement level gaps between subgroups, such as ethnicity or socio-economic status.
One of the challenges most Tennessee school systems faced with the NCLB law is schools can receive a failing grade when they are, in fact, making improvements. Director of Weakly County Schools Randy Frazier explained that by waiving the law, evaluations of schools would base judgments off of overall progress instead.
“A school can complete all of its goals with the exception of one, and they are targeted as a failing school,” stated Frazier.
By waiving the law, Tennessee public schools will have a more “realistic” opportunity to show the overall progress that they are making, and not be punished for a small percentage of the school’s evaluation. The state has already begun setting goals moving forward that they plan to follow to show future progress.
“Every year we want to make achievement goal improvements between three and five percent each year,” explained Frazier. “In addition, we want to decrease the achievement gaps in subgroups by cutting these gaps in half over a six-year period. They are not easy goals, but they are attainable.”
Test score performances will act as a baseline of where goals need to be. Areas of improvement can be established by each district’s overall scores, instead of all the school systems in the state having to follow the exact same guidelines.
Areas of focus when evaluating elementary and middle schools will consist of third and seventh-grade reading and math scores, and third through eighth-grade aggregated math and reading scores.
High school evaluations will primarily come from Algebra I and II end-of-course tests scores, as well as English II and III end-of-course test scores.
Frazier acknowledged that by meeting these new goals the state wants to set, Tennessee would become the fastest academic-improving state in the nation.
Already, with higher standards in place under Race to the Top, Tennessee has gained ground in national academic rankings, moving from consistently near the bottom to 21st in overall education quality according to the Education Research Center’s 2012 Quality Counts report.
In the report it states Tennessee schools earned an overall grade of C+.
The grade sounds more alarming on paper than it actually is, out of all 50 states, none scored an A and only nine states received a B.
In the other areas the report graded, Tennessee scored an A in transitions and alignment ranking third in the nation; an A- in standards, assessments, and accountability at 21st in the nation; and a B- in the teaching profession in general at ninth in the nation.
Unfortunately, there were areas the state struggled in comparison with others. Tennessee ranked 45th overall with a grade of C- in the chance for success category; 43rd in the nation with a D+ in school finance; and 42nd with a D in K-12 achievement.
Part of the agreement for the NCLB waiver is teachers, as well as principals, are evaluated on a yearly basis.
Teachers are implementing common core standards into the curriculum and student performance will count for 50 percent of the overall evaluation.
“Traditionally, we have done very well,” said Frazier of the schools in Weakley County. “It should be very encouraging to teachers and students with the new standards because the goals are attainable.”
Frazier said parents could help with the progress of their children at school by keeping track of their progress on a daily basis. By helping identify what areas their child is struggling in, it gives them an idea of where to seek resources for improvement.
To improve in some of the areas the state is underachieving in, it truly takes participation from everyone.

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