Student testing explained
ANGELA ROHEN, Testing and Accountability Supervisor, Wilson County Schools
Wilson County Schools is committed to providing high quality instruction for every single one of its students. We are focused on the academic success of all. Dedicated teachers, principals, district administrators, parents, and students work hard daily each playing a critical role as we strive to meet our district’s annual goals.
For the 2012-13 school year, Wilson County Schools is proud to have met 11 of 11 achievement goals. Each year, annual measureable objectives (AMOs) are set for us by the Tennessee Department of Education. For the 2013-14 school year, Wilson County Schools has a goal of improving its performance and meeting all of the challenges so that we are eligible for the status of an Exemplary School District.
In 2012-13, five of our schools were named Reward Schools. We want all of our schools to be Reward Schools in 2013-14! By meeting all of our AMO achievement goals and gap closure targets, we can attain these goals.
Reaching the AMO goals and the status of an Exemplary School District does not happen by chance or without hard work. Tests and assessments are a vitally important part of education and each assessment has a purpose. District and state assessments matter. They can, and should, be a teacher’s and parent’s ally. Assessing students throughout the year helps identify strengths and areas of need for each and every student – by name and by need.
Benchmark assessments provide us data that tells if our students know what we expect them to know, if they need more or modified instruction, more time, more assistance or, perhaps, enrichment activities. We pinpoint exactly what every child needs. The data also helps our teachers learn best practices from each other which in turn will impact student achievement. These benchmark assessments throughout the year are used to plan for additional learning. It is important for teachers and parents to be aware of each child’s performance all year long.
At the end of every school year, Tennessee students are required to take the state’s summative assessments of learning. In grades 3-8, students participate in TCAP. Students in high school take the End of Course (EOC) assessments in certain subjects. AMO targets can only be reached by the scores provided through TCAP and EOC. The ultimate success of the district’s improvement is measured in increased student achievement and decreased gaps among groups of students. We will never know where our students are unless we have data for each and every child.
It is no secret that parents, across the nation and across the state, have concerns with the amount of testing currently taking place. Although some parents may want for their child to be excused from testing, it is not an option in Tennessee as there is no “opt out” provision. We want parents to be aware that if students do not participate in assessments this can have a negative effect on the school’s participation rate and a potentially negative impact both the schools’ and district’s status.
In addition, a student’s final grade incorporates their TCAP or EOC score. TCAP accounts for 20 percent of a student’s last nine-week grade and EOC accounts for 25 percent of the student’s second nine-week grade. Students who miss the TCAP assessment will take a district exam. Students who miss the EOC will take the exam the following semester.
Districts and schools are required to have a 95 percent participation rate in state assessments. District assessments ultimately prepare our children for the state assessments. Therefore we also want a 95 percent participation rate in school assessments so we know everyone is moving toward the goals. If 5 percent of the school’s or district’s students “opt out,” the entire district will be jeopardized and Wilson County Schools will never eligible for Exemplary Status. Without a 95 percent participation rate, Wilson County Schools would automatically become a district “in need of improvement.” It is via the data that Wilson County Schools can be acknowledged as a high performing school system. Teachers also rely on the data as part of their overall evaluation score. Classroom, school, district, and state assessments serve many important purposes with the one goal in mind – increased student achievement.
Assessments are valuable. They are the key to unlock what has actually been learned. It is an ongoing process with the goal to understand and improve student learning. Students gain valuable information about their own learning. When students, parents, teachers and administrators understand what we are doing and why we are doing it, they understand it is an integral part of the learning process.
Editor’s Note: For more information on Wilson County Schools assessment and accountability, call Angela Rohen at 444-3282.