September 3, 2018
By: Dwayne Page
The DeKalb County School District received high marks in terms of growth in the 2018 TNReady report released last month by State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen.
According to the report, DeKalb County had an overall composite of Level 5 as a school district for grades 3-12 — the highest level of growth in literacy, science and social studies. Two schools in the district, DeKalb Middle and DeKalb West each attained an overall composite of Level 5 while Northside Elementary reached composite Level 4. The composites range from 1-5 with 5 being the highest.
DeKalb County ranked in the top 10 in the state for grades 6-8 in English Language Arts and also made the top 10 in high school math
“This is the result of a combination of hard work that is being put in between our teachers, students, administrators, and the supervisors at the central office. Today kids and teachers are asked to do more and we are meeting that challenge. We are improving our test scores each year and happy with the progress we are making but we still want to be number one in the state and we will keep pushing until we get to that point,” said Director of Schools Patrick Cripps.
According to Dr. Kathy Bryant, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 6-12, Northside Elementary measured significant growth this year while DeKalb Middle and DeKalb West maintained the same level of growth as last year
“Where we had a significant amount of growth was at Northside Elementary with grades 3-5 this year. DeKalb Middle School maintained the same status as they did last year. We are very proud of that because what happens is once you have reached that level 5 status maintaining that becomes even more difficult. Students and teachers have to work even harder. Same thing with DeKalb West. They maintained that same level as last year,” she said.
Dr. Bryant explained that growth is measured in how much progress students make from year to year.
“Students are evaluated on how much growth they make from one grade level to the next based on their testing history. Growth is very individual to the student. It is based on all the tests they have ever taken. We expect a certain amount growth each year from the students and we want to increase that growth every year with students and show that progress,” she continued.
Student achievement is determined by how well students perform on tests.
“The state has a category of mastery and on track. We basically count the number of students who are tested and determine the percentage of those who achieve on track or mastery status. For example, its like the kids who have mastered the test made 100 and those on track made anywhere from 85 to 90 but its not like our typical grades. Its a norm- referenced test. That’s achievement,” added Dr. Bryant.
“The data we get from the state includes a detailed list of every standard tested and it shows us how each student performs on each standard in each subject area and how the class as a whole performed and how the grade level as a whole performs. With this data we can analyze every standard to determine exactly where we have met expectations as a group or as an individual student or if that’s an area that we need to work on,” said Dr. Bryant.
New teaching strategies are already being implemented to enhance future student growth.
“We have a focus for next year for Reading and ELA. We are going to focus on text complexity which is analyzing what the students are reading. Is it complex enough to meet the standards and to meet the standards of the TNReady tests?. We are focusing district wide on text complexity and questioning in English Language Arts and for math we are focusing on math culture as well as math tasks and application meaning that we want to improve our students’ views and community views on math itself. Some students say I am not a math student. Some parents say I never did well in math. We want to change that view. Everybody has the potential to learn and to expand their knowledge,” said Dr. Bryant.
According to the state report, TNReady scores show 40 percent of Tennessee’s schools saw improvement across the majority of their grades and subjects in 2018. Of those nearly 700 schools, 210 saw improvement across all grades and subjects.
About 60 percent — 88 districts — “met or exceeded student expectations,” McQueen said.
Together, McQueen said, the state scores allow state and local education officials to see the bigger picture when it comes to overall student performance and academic growth. But McQueen said there’s still work to be done, as some districts across the state struggle in key areas.
“While we know we still have room to improve, we also want to celebrate the hundreds of schools in Tennessee that showed progress this past year,” McQueen said. “Students and teachers are making encouraging strides on both TNReady and in their overall growth, and today’s results point to bright spots across the state where students saw across-the-board success this past year on the state assessment. We want to learn from those places as we also continue to improve.”
The state’s students showed the most improvement in English Language Arts for grades 3-5, while 60 percent of schools improved achievement scores in this area. In most grades and subjects, around 30 to 50 percent of schools saw improvement in their achievement scores. In high school math, about 46 percent of schools improved.
To learn more, visit www.tn.gov/education.