Tennessee – Accountability

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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. ESSA requires states to submit plans to the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) describing the state systems for evaluating school performance and holding schools accountable for improvement. States could submit their plans to the US ED by either April 3 or September 18, 2017. After receiving feedback on their plans from the US ED, states finalize their plans. State accountability systems take effect in school year 2017-18.

SREB developed this profile based on analysis of the Tennessee plan approved by the US ED on August 30, 2017.

State Highlights: Expectations for College and Career Readiness

States are not required to include college- and career-readiness expectations in their accountability systems under ESSA. Many SREB states, however, did set college- and career-readiness expectations in their plans, in the form of long-term goals and school performance indicators. Tennessee included the following two college- and career-readiness expectations in its plan.

  1. Long-term goals. ESSA requires that states establish long-term goals based on academic achievement, high school graduation rate and English language proficiency for English learners. In addition to setting goals in these areas, Tennessee also established two goals:
    • By 2020, the state’s average ACT composite score will be 21.
    • By 2020, the majority of high school graduates will earn a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree.
  2. School performance indicator. ESSA requires states to set an indicator for school quality or student success, which can but does not have to include such measures as school climate and safety, student engagement and college readiness. Tennessee’s indicator for high schools measures each school’s rate of producing “ready graduates,” by multiplying the four-year graduation rate by the percentage of graduates meeting one of the following milestones.
    • Earning a composite score of 21 or higher on the ACT exam, or the equivalent on the SAT
    • Completing four early postsecondary opportunities (EPSOs), such as AP, IB, and dual credit or enrollment courses
    • Completing two EPSOs and earning an industry certificate

Read about these expectations below in the profile.

Long-Term Goals

The Every Student Succeeds Act requires that states establish long-term goals for all students and student groups based on academic achievement, high school graduation rate and English language proficiency for English learners.

Tennessee established the following long-term goals.

Academic achievement

  • By 2019, the state will rank in the top half of states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
  • By 2025, 75 percent of third-graders will be proficient in reading on the state’s annual English language arts test.
  • By 2024-25, the number of students not meeting the “on-track” or “mastered” level on the state’s annual English language arts, math and science assessments will decline by 50 percent.

Graduation rate

  • By 2025, 95 percent of students will graduate from high school in four years.

English language proficiency

  • By 2024-25, 75 percent of English learners will meet the annual growth standard on the state English language proficiency assessment.

College and career readiness

  • By 2020, the state’s average ACT composite score will be 21.
  • By 2020, the majority of high school graduates will earn a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree.

School Performance Indicators

ESSA specifies a set of indicators states must use to assess school performance. Indicators for all schools must include academic achievement as measured by proficiency on annual state assessments of English language arts and math in grades three through eight and once in high school. States must require 95 percent of students to participate in these assessments and factor this requirement into the school accountability system. States must also include two more indicators for all schools – English language proficiency for English learners and an indicator of school quality or student success, such as school climate and safety, student engagement and college readiness. For elementary and middle grades schools, states must include an additional academic indicator of the state’s choice, such as student growth on state assessments. For high schools, states must also include an indicator of four-year cohort graduation rate.

Tennessee established the following indicators of school performance.

Level Indicators

All schools

Academic achievement: Schools must meet the 95 percent participation rate for all students and subgroups

English language proficiency

  • Progressing towards proficiency – WIDA ACCESS for ELLs 2.0
  • Reaching proficiency on state assessment – WIDA ACCESS for ELLs 2.0

School quality or student success: Attendance – rates of chronic absenteeism, including out-of-school suspensions

Elementary and middle grades

Academic achievement: Proficiency, either absolute or improvement, on state English language arts, math and science assessments – TNREADY

Other academic indicator: Student growth on state English language arts, math and science assessments – TNREADY

High schools

Academic achievement

  • Proficiency, either absolute or improvement, on state English language arts, math and science assessments – end-of-course tests and ACT exam
  • Student growth on state English language arts, math and science assessments – end-of-course tests

Graduation rate

  • Four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, either absolute or improvement

School quality or student success: Ready Graduate measure, calculated by multiplying the four-year high school graduation rate by the percentage of graduates meeting one of the following milestones.  

  • Scoring 21 or higher on the ACT exam, or equivalent on the SAT
  • Completing four early postsecondary opportunities (EPSOs), such as AP, IB, and dual credit or enrollment courses
  • Completing two EPSOs and earning an industry certification

Annual Meaningful Differentiation

The Every Student Succeeds Act requires that states use their performance indicators to differentiate the performance of all schools and to report performance for all students and all student subgroups. States have flexibility in assigning weight to their indicators, so long as their indicators of academic achievement, graduation rate and English language proficiency progress together receive much greater weight than their school quality or student success indicators.

Tennessee established the following framework for differentiating schools, weights for each indicator, and student subgroups and subgroup size.

Framework for differentiating schools in Tennessee

On an annual basis, schools will receive an overall A through F letter grade based on the weighted average of the grades for each indicator, according to state law. Schools will receive a separate A through F letter grade for each indicator, for all students and student subgroups

Weights assigned to each indicator in Tennessee

Weights assigned to each indicator in Tennessee - Elementary and Middle Grades (45% Academic Achievement / 35% Other Academic Indicator / 10% School Quality or Student Success / 10% English Language Proficiency Progress) and High Schools (30% Academic Achievement (English Language Arts, Math and Science) / 30% School Quality or Student Success / 25% Academic Achievement (Student Growth) / 10% English Language Proficiency Progress / 5% Graduation Rate)

Student subgroups in Tennessee

  • Subgroups used:
    • For state accountability, Tennessee will focus on four student subgroups: economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English learners and a combined subgroup of black, Hispanic, and Native American students. Tennessee’s plan notes that black, Hispanic and Native American students have historically scored the lowest on state assessments. Based on this, Tennessee identified these three groups as the state’s major racial and ethnic subgroups for accountability under ESSA. The state will use this combined subgroup in the calculation of school overall letter grades. Using this approach, Tennessee intends to hold more schools accountable for the performance of these students, including schools that do not have enough black, Hispanic and Native American students to meet the n-count for each group on its own. (See “Size of subgroups” below.)
    • However, to identify schools for targeted support and improvement under ESSA (described below), Tennessee will use all six federally-recognized racial and ethnic subgroups – Asian students, black students, Hawaiian or Pacific islander students, Hispanic or Latino students, native American students, and white students – in addition to the black, Hispanic and Native American combined subgroup.
  • Size of subgroups:
    • In instances in which schools do not meet the threshold of 30 students (n-count) for any of the four accountability subgroups – economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English learners and the combined black, Hispanic and Native American subgroup – the school will be held accountable for the performance of students in these groups through a combined subgroup that will include any student who is a member of any these subgroups.
    • In instances in which a school has an n-count of fewer than 10 students in any of the student subgroups, the subgroup results will not be reported publicly.

Identifying, Serving and Exiting Schools from Needs Improvement Status

ESSA requires that states establish a methodology for identifying low-performing schools. States must identify two categories of schools at least once every three years: those that need Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and those that need Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI). States may also establish other categories of schools, for example those not in need of improvement.

Tennessee established the following identification and exit criteria, and interventions to support schools.

Comprehensive Support and Improvement

How schools are identified

    Called “priority schools” in Tennessee. Identified every three years beginning in 2017-18, any schools that meet any of the following criteria.

    • CSI schools: Schools that receive an overall “F” letter grade and are in the bottom 5 percent statewide in overall achievement on state assessments
    • CSI high schools: Schools with less than a 67 percent graduation rate
    • TSI schools: Schools that do not exit TSI status after three consecutive years

    Interventions to meet improvement needs

    State will provide the following interventions, based on the following school tracks.

    • Alpha track: Identified on the two most recent priority lists and having a student growth score of 3 or less. The state identifies the appropriate intervention from a number of options, which can include entry into the statewide achievement school district. The state partners with the local education agency to lead a resource allocation review, intervention implementation, and progress monitoring.
    • Beta track: Identified on the two most recent priority lists and having a student growth score of 4 or 5, having two or fewer years in previous interventions, or having met minimum requirements for improvement. The local education agency leads interventions, support and progress monitoring. The state supports the local education agency with an annual review and other assistance as needed.
    • Delta track: Newly identified as priority. The state leads a planning review and supports the local education agency and school. The local education agency leads interventions, implementation and progress monitoring. The state supports the local education agency with an annual review and other assistance as needed.

    Criteria for exiting this category

      Schools can exit CSI status if they meet the following criteria.

      • No longer meeting the CSI identification criteria after three years
      • Exceeding the 10th percentile of schools in the state for two consecutive years, or exceeding the 15th percentile of schools in the state after one year
      • Earning a student growth rate of 4 or 5 in all testing subject areas and grade levels for two consecutive years
      • Meeting state targets for underperforming subgroups for two consecutive years
      • Exceeding a 67 percent high school graduation rate for two consecutive years
      Targeted Support and Improvement

      How schools are identified

        Called “focus schools” in Tennessee. Identified annually beginning after the completion of the 2017-18 school year, any schools that meet any of the following criteria.

        • TSI:
          • Schools that are “consistently underperforming,” those receiving an overall “D” letter grade
          • Schools with an overall letter grade of “A,” “B,” or “C” that have a “consistently underperforming” subgroup, performing in the bottom 5 percent statewide for any subgroup. These schools will receive a minus on their overall school letter grade (for example, “A-”)
        • Additional TSI: Schools that perform in the bottom 5 percent statewide for the combined black, Hispanic and Native American student subgroup

        Interventions to meet improvement needs

          • State approves school improvement plans
          • Local education agency takes primary responsibility for supporting schools in implementing their plans
          • Additionally, the state education agency and its Centers of Regional Excellence support the schools and their local education agencies with tailored support. Support consists of annual cycles of resource allocation review, data analysis, planning interventions, technical assistance, support for implementation, communities of practice, convenings, priority access to trainings and progress monitoring.

          Criteria for exiting this category

            After one year, schools can exit TSI status by:

            • No longer meeting the TSI identification criteria
            Other categories of schools

            Reward schools

              Identified annually since 2012, schools earning an overall “A” letter grade through any of the following criteria.

              • High absolute achievement in high-performing schools
              • Extraordinary progress in achievement in low-performing schools

              There are no interventions for reward schools.

              This profile was prepared by Kim Anderson, SREB’s director of benchmarking college- and career-readiness standards, Mary Elizabeth Mira, SREB’s assistant director of benchmarking college- and career-readiness standards, Tiffany Harrison, SREB’s research associate for benchmarking college- and career-readiness standards and Jeff Gagné, SREB’s director of policy analysis. For more information, please contact Kim Anderson at kim.anderson@sreb.org or Jeff Gagné at jeff.gagne@sreb.org.