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Schools juggle new accountability tracking

In World
January 26, 2024

Jan. 25—Tracking how well the school system is performing is getting more complicated.

As the state looks at school system outcomes, Director of Schools Scott Maddox said the schools are tracking three different sets of factors that comprise the system’s accountability under federal rules, state reporting and the new Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement funding formula.

“Just recently, the state changed some metrics on us,” said Leslie Eldridge, supervisor of college, career and technical education, during the Jan. 13 Cumberland County Board of Education retreat.

The three sets of standards are similar, but they do have some key differences in how they define a “Ready Graduate.” And, when it comes to TISA accountability, the differences can impact school funding.

Under federal rules, a Ready Graduate is a student who graduates with one of the following standards:

—ACT composite score of 21 or higher

—Completes four early post-secondary opportunities, such as dual credit, dual enrollment or Advanced Placement courses

—Completes two early post-secondary opportunities and earn one industry certification

—Completes two early post-secondary opportunities and score a 31 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam

This was also the state’s definition last year.

The state developed a “college and career ready” graduate standard. That’s slightly different. That keeps the ACT score and grants credit for a student earning a 31 or higher on the ASVAB. It also grants ready status to students who earn a Tier 3 industry credential or a Tier 2 credential and one other credential or students who earn at least one post-secondary credit.

That’s a big distinction, Eldridge said. While students enrolled in dual enrollment earn a college credit if they pass the class, dual credit and Advanced Placement courses require students to pass an exam at the end of the class to earn credit.

“There’s a lot of different factors we have to calculate. That is 10% of our accountability at the high schools,” Eldridge said. “And the statewide pass rate is 20% across the board, and some lower.”

Stepp said that has also been a “moving target.” Before, schools got credit for any student taking a dual credit class.

“Before it was ‘seat time,'” Stepp said. “Now, there’s more accountability.”

Under the TISA formula, the school system can receive a funding bonus under graduation outcomes for students who:

—earn two early post-secondary credits and score a 21 or higher on the ACT, or post an improvement in the composite score of at least four points from their first test in the 11th grade

—earn three early post-secondary credits

—earn two early post-secondary credits and score a 31 or higher on the ASVAB

These guidelines were released in October. Cumberland County earned $184,000 in high school outcome funding for this year.

Each of those “ready graduate” standards must be tracked by guidance personnel. That’s creating a challenge, Eldridge said.

“We’re tracking students the minute they walk in the door in the ninth grade,” Eldridge said. “We may have freshmen taking dual enrollment through [Tennessee College of Applied Technology].”

There are three counselors at both Cumberland County High School and Stone Memorial High School and one at Phoenix School.

“Our school counselors are vital,” Eldridge said.

But counselors are tasked with a number of duties, including parent meetings, helping students with social-emotional needs, advising students on class choices, and helping students prepare for post-secondary options, including completing the application for Tennessee Promise.

The college, career and technical education department added new personnel to serve as a counselor and coach, tracking requirements for the new Industry 4.0 diploma designation and ensure students meet their requirements for a career concentration of three classes. Those counselors are helping with dual enrollment applications, Tennessee Promise and tracking student progress.

Stepp said schools were also looking at administrative duties counselors may have previously fielded, and reassigning those when possible.

“Internally, we’re looking at jobs they don’t need to be involved with to take the load off,” Stepp said.

The school system is also seeing differences in how the state calculates the graduation rate versus the federal department of education. Cumberland County had a 92.9% graduation rate in 2023, but the federal calculation put that at 85.3%.

Eldridge said the two scores are a result of a federal audit of the state’s graduation data.

Students must complete four credits of math, and Tennessee had allowed students to count classes the federal department did not count.

“Schools with students who struggle with math would offer an Algebra IA and IB,” Stepp said. “The federal government said you can’t do that.

Stepp said students were already enrolled in those classes when the federal decision was announced in September.

“Each year there will be less and less students and we’re putting in a new math pathway,” Stepp said. “That will bring our federal graduation rate up to match the state.”

Nick Davis, 5th District representative, said not every state requires Algebra II as a required subject.

Stepp said there is discussion of adding substitute classes and removing Algebra II as a tested subject. Eldridge said there were plans to offer a math credit through work-based learning in the future.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at [email protected].

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