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Pandemic Disruptions Impacted Students; Data to Drive Strategies to Boost Student Achievement

The Tennessee Department of Education has released the 2020-21 Spring Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) district-level results. The results highlight the importance of addressing the needs of students and moving forward with a sense of urgency and optimism about what our students can and will accomplish this school year. 

State- and district-level results from the 2020-21 Spring TCAP assessments show that pandemic-related disruptions to education led to expected declines in academic proficiency across the state. However, proficiency declines were mitigated as a direct result of the hard work of our districts, schools, and educators and some districts even saw improvements in their proficiency rates in some tested subjects/grades.  

Tennessee’s school districts are the best sources of information for characterization of local results and know their communities best. While declines were expected due to the pandemic, this is an opportunity for our school communities to share their data and rally together to advance programs, initiatives and supports that will benefit student achievement. 

“Since the start of the pandemic, Tennessee’s districts, schools, educators, and families have worked incredibly hard to ensure students continue learning, and now a brand-new school year has just begun,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “While we expected declines in student proficiency, the data from our statewide assessment creates an opportunity to make more informed, strategic decisions and investments that are best for accelerating the achievement of our students. Tennessee is well prepared for the work that lies ahead, and we will continue to put our kids first.”  

Access an overview presentation about the district-level results here and a downloadable spreadsheet of district proficiency rates across student groups here

To ensure districts are able to best support their students, district-level results are essential to providing a snapshot into each of our school communities to highlight needed supports and investments to continue driving student acceleration and achievement. 

In the overview presentation, the department highlighted district proficiency rates in early grades, specifically 3rd grade English Language Arts (ELA) and 7th grade math, because we recognize the importance of ensuring students are learning on grade level for these foundational years. Specifically, meeting expectations in 3rd grade ELA is a key indicator of future academic success; and 7th grade math is foundational to Algebra and mathematical reasoning.  

This release only includes high school TCAP participation data from Spring 2021 and not Fall 2020, so it is more appropriate for local districts to highlight high school information. Further, statewide high school participation rates were lower than those of elementary and middle schools, making longitudinal comparisons more difficult. 

The spotlight slides in the overview for each district contain information on the district’s overall participation rate for the 2020-21 TCAP test administration; proficiency percentages from the test administration for all eligible Tennessee students, all students in the respective district, and all student groups;  the district’s primary operating model for the reported grade level for the 2020-21 school year; and proficiency data to illustrate both how the district performed in the subject and grade versus how the state performed over time, as well as how various student groups in a district performed, over time. Student group proficiency data is suppressed for a count of ten or fewer students.  

It is important to note that these assessment data are different from school and district accountability and designations. This release provides assessment data for students across the state and by district. Tennessee’s accountability model has additional rules to attribute academic achievement and growth to each school and district, which may not include every student, and is determined after a district appeals process. Assessment is about measuring and reporting on the performance of students; accountability, which includes more data points, is about reporting on the performance of systems. 

During the January 2021 Special Legislative Session, Public Chapter 2 removed negative consequences associated with accountability for districts and schools whose district-wide TCAP participation rate was 80% or higher. On Tuesday, July 27, the department shared that 100% of districts met the 80% participation rate, with 80% of districts having met the federal 95% participation rate. More than two million TCAP tests were administered this year to approximately 750,000 students, providing families and schools systems access to information that will help drive strategic decision-making for students. 

To help Tennessee families and students understand their TCAP results, the department’s free, online resource, TCAP Family Portal, created in direct response to parent and stakeholder feedback, is available and provides access to test results from this year. The portal also includes test history features allowing families to track progress over time, TCAP scale scores and performance levels by subject, parent guides and resources, and individualized recommendations for improvements. Families can access this resource by registering atfamilyreport.tnedu.gov.   

To support districts and schools experiencing various learning disruptions, the department offered multiple flexibilities and supports to districts so they could make the best assessment plans to fit their needs. These flexibilities included the expanded use of off-site testing locations, flexibility for local testing schedules, and guidance on medical exemptions for COVID-impact students. 

In alignment with the Best for All strategic plan, the department recognized the impending impact the global pandemic would have on K-12 education in Tennessee and has proactively and strategically committed investments to prioritize meeting the needs of all Tennessee students through the state’s ARP ESSER plan, which lays out the state’s spending strategy for its portion of federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus funding to benefit K-12 education in Tennessee. Specifically, the state plan highlights  combatting existing gaps in student achievement and opportunity, addressing the needs of rural communities, improving early literacyinvesting in a statewide tutoring corps, and accelerating student academic achievement across the state. 

District leaders commented on the importance of annual assessments and how Tennesseans need to come together to support our students. 

“Manchester City Schools has worked extremely hard to support our students and ensure they are prepared for this new school year. I am proud that we achieved a 96% participation rate for the TCAP assessments this past school year, and saw gains in math across most student groups,” said Dr. Joey Vaughn, Director of Schools, Manchester City Schools. “With a majority of our students having tested, we know how critical these results are and how they provide a snapshot of where our students need support. We are prepared and already making investments to put our students first as we start this new year.”  

“Over the course of last school year and this summer, our district, schools, and educators worked tirelessly to support our students and ensure learning continued despite disruptions caused by the pandemic,” said Dr. Bruce Borchers, Director of Schools, Oak Ridge City Schools. “While our district saw increases in ELA scores for our early learners and in the areas of Science and U.S. History, we know there is still work to be done and we have a student-centered mindset as we enter this school year.” 

“Like other school districts across the state and country, we were faced with enormous challenges as a result of COVID-19 that impacted our students’ academic progress,” said Bob Thomas, Director of Schools, Knox County Schools. “This data, made available through an annual assessment of our students, will allow us to be intentional in how we move forward with closing gaps in academic performance and accelerating student learning in the coming year. It will take all of us working together to ensure our students have the supports they need to achieve success.”  

TCAP includes summative assessments for English language arts, math, science, and social studies for grades 3-8, high school end-of-course (EOC) exams in English I and II, Algebra I and II, Geometry, Integrated Math I, II, and III; Biology, and U.S. History. TCAP also includes the TCAP-Alternate Assessment for students with disabilities, and the optional TCAP Grade 2 Assessment. 

These analyses do not include the results of the optional Grade 2 Assessment nor TCAP-Alt tests, which are assessments for students with the most significant learning disabilities. To learn more about the state’s assessment program, visit the department’s State Assessment webpage. To learn more about the Accountability Model visit the department’s Accountability webpage

District- and state- level spring 2020-21 TCAP assessment data files are accessible to download on the department’s Data Downloads webpage

Lucky Knott

Lucky Knott

One of Southern Tennessee's most experienced and recognized news broadcasters and play-by-play sportscasters. Current news director for On Target News and manager of Rooster 101.5 FM. Knott can be heard on 93.9 The Duck, The Rooster 101.5 and Whiskey Country 105.1 and 95.9. He is currently the play by play voice of the Coffee County Red Raiders on The Rooster 101.5. Lucky has done play-by-play for 3,500 sports events on Radio & TV. He also served 4 years as the Public Information Officer for the Coffee Co. Sheriff's Dept. and taught Radio/TV for 6 years at Grundy County High School.

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