Tennessee postpones release of test scores

Results needed to calculate some students' final grades
May. 21, 2014 @ 07:55 PM

While several nearby school districts are dealing with the possibility of changes in the final grades of some students due to an unexpected delay by the state in releasing some test scores, it isn’t clear yet whether Sevier County schools will have the same problem.

Tuesday was the state’s deadline to issue “quick scores” for the tests it required students take as part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. The state also called for schools to use those scores as a portion of students’ final grades, and several school systems were set to wrap up classes Wednesday.

Instead of issuing the scores, the state sent emails to school systems Tuesday afternoon announcing it hadn’t completed the scores for grades three through eight, and that it would likely take another 10 days to do so. TCAP scores for high school students should be released on time.

“We recognize that delaying quick score release has an impact on finalizing student grades and report cards, and apologize for the inconvenience,” said Erin O’Hara, assistant commissioner for data and research for the Tennessee Department of Education, in the email.

“At the same time, through discussions with our (Technical Advisory Committee), we want to take appropriate measures to ensure the accuracy of the quick scores.”

The delay came about because the Department of Education decided to review data from the scores before releasing the scores — something that previously had been done after the quick scores were released.

“Given the number of changes made this year, we want to do this before releasing scores,” O’Hara said. “It is likely that this will be our process in future years as well.”

Schools were left with the options of delaying report cards until the state issues the final scores and teachers can include them in final grades, issuing preliminary report cards that could have inaccurate scores that would have to be corrected in the next school year, or seeking a waiver of the requirement.

In Sevier County, the school year doesn’t end until next week, and report cards aren’t due until June 3. Officials hope the state completes the scores in time for report cards, but they’ve filed for a waiver in case that doesn’t happen.

“At the present time, we do not know whether our scores will be back before the end of our school year,” said Debra Cline, the county system's assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum and instruction. “We are keeping an eye on this situation and have filed for a waiver ... in case the scores do not get back in a timely manner.

“We will make an announcement about this matter next week when we have more information about the return of quick scores to our school system.”

The last-minute announcement from the state, acknowledging it couldn’t provide scores it mandated be used by public school systems across the state, sent waves of frustration through parents and school officials affected by the decision.

Knox County schools were set to issue report cards Wednesday, until the announcement came from the state.

“The Tennessee Department of Education notified school districts across the state late on Tuesday (May 20) that the delivery of TCAP ‘quick scores’ will be delayed,” Knox County School Superintendent James McIntyre Jr. wrote. “As a result, we will not be able to provide report cards to students in grades 3-8 on Wednesday May 21.”

The state quickly approved an applcation for a waiver from Knox County schools, meaning they will be able to provide final grades for students when they issue report cards next week.

Blount County schools announced they would not issue report cards until they can include the TCAP scores.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com