Mixed bag in latest school assessments as COVID effects linger

(TN Department of Education/staff reports) This week, the Tennessee Department of Education announced the school and district designations for the 2021-22 school year, which includes the highest performing schools and districts for academic achievement and student growth. Across the state, 427 schools spanning 92 districts received designation as a Reward school, and 16 districts received designation as an Exemplary district.

Officials state on the first page of the full report that the department “will not produce school letter grades in the 2021-22 accountability cycle considering the impact COVID-related disruptions had on learning and district evaluation results.” The Department also cautions that schools and districts should use the released accountability data “with caution when interpreting accountability results,” and instead “strongly” encourages using multiple performance indicators to assess overall performance.

Locally, Clinton Elementary School was recognized as a Reward School and the three-school Clinton City system was identified as “Advancing,” the second-highest distinction a system can receive behind “Exemplary,” which the system achieved last year.

The Anderson County School system saw two schools—Norris and Fairview Elementary Schools—receive the Reward School designation, but overall, the county school system ranked in the bottom 5% of districts statewide, along with Claiborne, Knox, and Sevier counties here in East Tennessee.

**Districts receive an in need of improvement designation if their overall score falls in the bottom five percent of all districts. See below for a list of districts within Need of Improvement designation for 2021-22. 

Anderson County Schools
Claiborne County Schools
Humphreys County Schools
Knox County Schools
Perry County Schools
Sevier County Schools
Tennessee School for Blind

Four schools in the Anderson County Schools are listed as Targeted Support and Improvement—or TSI—schools. They are Claxton and Dutch Valley Elementary Schools as well as Clinton and Lake City Middle Schools.

**Schools with overall accountability scores in the bottom five percent statewide for the performance of a given student group are identified as Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) schools. Schools can be identified as TSI schools for any of the following given student groups when meeting the identification criteria: Black/Hispanic/Native American, Economically Disadvantaged, English Learners, Students with Disabilities, Hispanic/Latino, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Asian, and White. These schools are supported by the department and are eligible for additional funding. The department identifies TSI schools annually.

Anderson County SchoolsClaxton Elementary
Anderson County SchoolsClinton Middle School
Anderson County SchoolsDutch Valley Elementary
Anderson County SchoolsLake City Middle School

Oak Ridge has three Reward Schools: Linden and Willow Brook Elementaries, and Jefferson Middle. Overall, the Oak Ridge school system was recognized as “Advancing.”

School systems in Morgan and Roane counties were designated “Advancing,” and Campbell County was identified as “Satisfactory.”

Each year, schools are eligible for four types of designations based on their overall performance across indicators that are essential to student success, including how the school prepared students to be proficient (Achievement), accelerated student learning (Growth), encouraged students to attend school regularly (Chronically out of School), prepared students for postsecondary success (Graduation Rate and Ready Graduate), and supported English learners acquiring language skills. 

Schools are recognized as a Reward school when they demonstrate high levels of performance and/or improvement in performance by meeting their annual measurable objectives across performance indicators and student groups, and the Reward school distinction places significant emphasis on improvement from the prior school year. From the 2020-21 TCAP administration, a significant number of schools saw improvement and increased participation in this year’s assessments to qualify for the distinction.

“Tennessee students, families, educators, and school communities have worked hard to overcome a variety of challenges stemming from the pandemic and I congratulate them on their efforts,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Our teachers and school and district leaders focus on helping students improve every day and we will continue to focus on student achievement, as well as growth, so that all students are set on a path to success.”  

The complete list of district and school designations, including Reward schools and schools exiting Priority or Focus status, is posted on the department’s Accountability webpage.

In addition to recognizing Reward schools, the department also named Priority schools and Focus schools. Priority schools, also federally designated as Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) schools, were the bottom five percent of the schools across state due to multiple years of low academic performance. Focus schools, which are federally designated as either Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) or Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI), are also identified based on school performance among student groups. Additional support and fundings will be provided to the identified Priority and Focus schools next school year for school improvement purposes.   

School districts also receive designations based on their performance and/or demonstration of improvement on the same set of school performance measures. These preliminary designations are available on the department’s accountability page and will be presented to the State Board of Education for approval at the October 28th quarterly meeting.

** = definition proved by TN Dept. of Education

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