published Thursday, July 31st, 2014

TCAP scores climb: Still, only half of Hamilton County's kids perform at grade level

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    TCAP tests are stacked on a teacher’s desk.
    Photo by Allison Kwesell

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Tennessee 2014 District-Level TCAP Results

http://tn.gov/education/data/tcap_2014_districts.shtml

Poll
Are Hamilton County schools improving?

Hamilton County students improved their performance on this year's TCAPs, pushing scores up in seven of 11 tested areas.

State officials continued to point to test score growth as evidence that Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman's reforms are improving the quality of public education. Yet 2014 state assessment scores released Wednesday by the Tennessee Department of Education show there's still a long way to go:

In Hamilton County, only about half of elementary and middle school students are performing at grade level in math and reading.

Hamilton County's 2014 scores in elementary and middle school math, science and reading were essentially flat, and students lost ground in social studies. But the high school grades showed improvement in five of seven tested categories.

That largely tracks with a statewide trend as districts saw improvements across almost all high school subjects, while scores remained relatively constant in grades 3-8.

Statewide average TCAP scores released earlier this month showed proficiency rates for all Tennessee students were at or near their highest levels in the past five years. Yet statewide, just 51 percent of students were performing at grade level in 3-8 math. In reading, 49.5 percent met expectations for those grades.

"This year's test results are basically about the same as what we had the year before," said Kirk Kelly, Hamilton County's director of testing and accountability. "In the high schools, we were able to make a little more inroads. It's just one of those situations where we just had better progress at the high school level. That probably needs a little more investigating."

This year's district-level results showed Hamilton County continues to inch ahead in math results for grades 3-8, though reading scores for the same grades remain stagnant.

Since 2011, math scores in grades 3-8 have improved by nearly 10 percentage points, with 54.4 percent of Hamilton County's students performing at grade level. In 2014, 46.9 percent of students met grade-level expectations in reading -- up only slightly from 44.6 percent in 2011.

But Kelly said there are signs of progress in reading.

Seventh-grade scores were up. And English II scores were up 2.7 percentage points, with 58.1 of students scoring in the proficient or advanced categories.

"We do have some promise in the reading area," he said. "We've just have to do better in all the lower grades."

Results were mixed across the region.

Scores for Sequatchie County Schools were down in seven of 11 categories. All TCAP scores for grades 3-8 were down. District data coordinator Marsha Talley said the system is working on changes to improve reading scores.

"We are stepping back and taking a long, hard look at teachers and programs that we have been using," she said. "We all have room to make growth and improvement."

Marion County Schools improved in seven of 11 tested categories. Math scores for grades 3-8 improved by 4.2 percentage points, with just over half of the county's students meeting grade-level expectations in 2014. Elementary and middle school science scores were up 3 percentage points with about two-thirds of students passing.

"We have had some celebrations in the district and there are still some issues we need to address," said Superintendent Mark Griffith.

He said Marion County's schools and central office have been planning a new intervention program that will help improve scores in the future by providing more one-on-one help to students.

"All students, even the high-achieving students, need this growth," he said.

Staff writer Kendi Anderson contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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