Sullivan schools using achievement scores for improvement

Rick Wagner • Updated Nov 13, 2017 at 1:17 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Schools officials are pleased overall with academic results from the 2016-17 school year and plan to use the good and not-so-good results in planning with principals at a meeting on Tuesday.

With value-added scores already in and academic scores coming more recently, Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said the last piece of the puzzle, so to speak, will be the system’s Report Card, which is expected from the state in December.

Meanwhile, school system officials gave the Board of Education a rundown on academic performance during a work session Thursday.

Karen Nave, of the central office, Robin McClellan, supervisor of elementary education, and others explained that most subjects have more rigorous testing than a few years ago and have four levels of achievement: below, approaching, on task and mastered. However, biology, science and chemistry still have three levels: below basic, basic and proficient.

In grades 3-5 for Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) achievement, English/language arts standardized testing last school year indicated that 31.9 percent of third-graders, 35.9 percent of fourth-graders and 30 percent of fifth-graders were on task or mastered levels. In math, third grade was 37 percent on task or mastered; fourth grade, 42.7 percent; and fifth grade, 32.6 percent.

In science in 3-5, where the standards have not been made more vigorous, the results for the last two categories were 62.8 percent of third-graders, 49.1 percent of fourth-graders and 53.4 percent of fifth-graders.

In grades 6-8, ELA scores were 32.4 percent on task or mastered for sixth grade, 33.6 percent for seventh grade and 29.1 percent for eighth grade, while math was 36.4 percent for sixth, 28 percent for seventh and 35 percent for eighth.

Science was 55.6 percent for sixth grade, 61.3 percent for seventh and 67.2 percent for eighth.

In math for grades 7-8 at Innovation Academy, the Algebra I results were 14.3 percent on task or mastered and 93.8 percent for geometry. Both were distance learning courses, and officials said the low algebra performance was caused by students not having a grasp of basic math concepts from prior grades. Normally, students don’t take Algebra I until high school.

As for End of Course (EOC) tests in high school, Algebra I was 13.6 percent on task or mastered; Algebra II, 19 percent; geometry, 32.4 percent; English I, 30.2 percent; English 2, 39.6 percent; English 3, 41.4 percent; biology, 61.5 percent; chemistry, 31.6 percent; and U.S. history, which does not yet have new standards, 35.7 percent.

For the first time, the state this year is giving school systems credit for moving students in the below or below basic levels up, even if they do not reach the next level, Nave said. Sullivan County ranked in the top 10, at No. 8, among systems in moving students in the lowest category upward.

For the ACT composite scores, 48.32 percent of students made a 21 or more, with 21 considered the level at which students are ready for college, while 36.1 percent had an ACT score of less than 18.

All the information given for 2016-17 so far, including academic and value-added data, will be used during the Tuesday principals’ meeting to determine the root cause of lower scores, set goals and determine the next steps. The data can come down to individual students and ways to help them improve.

“We say all the time we’re more powerful than a number,” Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said, “and we are.”

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