In English and math exams, not a single Achievement School District elementary, middle or high school had more than 20 percent of students scoring on grade level, according to Tennessee school-level test data released on Thursday.
Cornerstone Prep Lester Elementary, an elementary school in the state district, had the highest percentage of students scoring on grade level in math at 20 percent. Promise Spring Hill Elementary had the highest percentage of students scoring on grade level in English with 15 percent.
High schools struggled even more with math and English — not one of the six state high schools had more than 7 percent of students scoring on grade level. (Read about last year’s results for high schools and elementary/middles schools in the state district).
Search for a school within the Achievement School District or Bluff City High School below. You can compare TNReady scores to see the percent of students scoring at/above grade level and growth scores for multiple schools.
The news is not surprising: The Achievement School District oversees 30 of the state’s lowest-performing schools, the majority of which are in Memphis. But as the district settles into its seventh year, the results show student progress remains woefully short of the original goal — to transform the state’s bottom 5 percent of schools within five years by converting them to charter schools.
Some of the best scores for the district were in science — 16 schools had 16 percent of students or more scoring on grade level. Cornerstone Prep Lester had the highest percentage at 41.5 percent. But Tennessee is transitioning to new, more difficult standards and a new aligned test for that subject this year.
However, there’s not a full picture of how the 30 schools within the district fared. Out of 113 TNReady tests administered to students, 38 came back marked with asterisks instead of test data for the percentage of students on-track/mastered, also known as the percentage of students scoring on or above grade level.
The state doesn’t release data for an exam if fewer than 5 percent of students were on grade level or if 95 percent of students were above grade level.
District-wide results released in July showed students in the state schools are performing far below the statewide average, especially in high school. In fact, scores are dropping. In English II, a high school course, only 4 percent of high schoolers were on or exceeding grade-level, down from 9.8 percent last year. Three years ago, 10.2 percent of students were on grade level.
There was overall growth of scores in grades three through eight, but students in the state-run district are still scoring 28.1 points below the statewide average in math and 25.7 points below the statewide average in English.
State leaders told educators in the Achievement School District in July that the test results were “sobering.” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen appointed Sharon Griffin, a proven turnaround leader in Memphis, to take over the struggling district this school year. Griffin has said that the game plan for improving the district includes monthly visits with community partners, transparency, a “students first” mentality, and coaches who will provide more support around professional development
The Achievement School District scored in the lowest level of student growth. Student growth is measured in Tennessee on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest measure, through the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, known as TVAAS.
A bright spot for the state district was the eight schools that scored a 5, or in the top level of student growth: Kirby Middle, Memphis Scholars Raleigh Egypt, Cornerstone Denver, Wooddale Middle, Neely’s Bend, Lester Prep, Promise Academy Elementary, and Aspire Middle School.
But 10 state schools scored in the bottom level possible for measuring academic growth. Westside Middle, Whitney, Pathways in Education Whitehaven, Pathways in Education Frayser, Humes Middle School, KIPP Prep Middle, Fairly High School, MLK College Prep High School, Hillcrest High School and GRAD Academy High all scored a 1. (GRAD Academy closed after May).
The mixed results come in the third year of the state’s TNReady test, and after a wild spring of testing hampered by technical problems in the state’s return to widespread computerized testing. About half of the 650,000 students who took TNReady tested online, while the rest stuck with paper and pencil. Online testing snafus were so extensive that the Legislature — concerned about the scores’ reliability — rolled back their importance in students’ final grades, teachers’ evaluations, and the state’s accountability system for schools. However, the results of a new independent analysis show that the online disruptions had minimal impact on scores.
The school-level results also were released during a time of escalating tension over the TNReady test. School superintendents, state lawmakers, and the state’s top education officials are weighing in over whether the state should continue testing.
There was no data provided for a new Memphis high school under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education, Bluff City High School. According to state data, Bluff turned in 133 English exams and 141 math exams. But no results were provided by the state — meaning either only 5 percent of students were on grade level or more than 95 percent of students were on grade level.
Bluff City High, run by Green Dot Public Schools, opened last fall with 160 ninth-graders. The school is overseen by a different kind of state district — the Board of Education, which is a separate entity from the State Department of Education.
Despite the lack of testing data provided by the state, Bluff City was recorded as a level 5 for growth.
The results are significant because this is the first time the State Board has operated as a direct overseer of schools. The State Board can authorize charter schools if the conditions are right in counties with the highest number of low-performing schools. If a local board denies a charter application, the operator can appeal to the State Board, which can then become the authorizer if it overturns the local board and the local board still declines to authorize the school.
NOTE: A spokeswoman from the state Department of Education said results for grades 3-8 social studies are preliminary, and official results will be released in September. U.S. History results were only available for Hillcrest, where 10.2 percent of students scored on grade level, and MLK College Prep, where 8.8 percent of students scored on grade level.
Correction: A previous version of the story stated that new science standards were implemented last year. They will be implemented this year.