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County receives student growth scores

Scores show strengths in literacy & numeracy, problems with science.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The results are in and Washington County School District has now received its 2017-2018 Tennessee Value-Added Assessment Scores.

TVAAS serves as a measurement tool for student growth for each school and school district in the state. The results are not based on how students performed on state mandated tests each year, but rather how far a student has grown academically. But due to a rather complicated formula, how the results turn out is a bit of a gamble from year to year, according to Washington County Interim Director of Schools Bill Flanary.

“With value-added, I could take math teachers from both high schools, have them calculate it and I promise you the state would come up with something different,” Flanary said. “Talk to any superintendent, supervisor or any principal and, when the scores come out, you kind of hold your breath. If it’s great, you accept it. If it’s not, you just keep working.

“We don’t expect anything. We just hope for good scores because the calculation is so difficult to make.”

This year’s calculations left the Washington County School District with a four for its overall composite score. Flanary told the Herald & Tribune that he’s proud of the work put in to receive a high ranking and he attributes that to teachers and principals.

“I’ve been watching scores from my former position for a long time,” Flanary said. “We have been a leader across the region among the county systems for a decade. It’s because of our technique of teaching what we’re supposed to teach and not just what we want to teach.”

While the method has proven successful in most categories, the county is lacking in one category across the board.

A five is the highest score possible with a one being the lowest for TVAAS results. Throughout the TVAAS composite categories, the county received a five in literacy, numeracy, literacy and numeracy combined, and in social studies. However, the county received a one in science.

Of the 14 school TVAAS results recorded (Jonesborough Elementary and Boones Creek Elementary scores were not available), eight schools received a one, three schools received a three, two schools received a four and one school, Ridgeview Elementary School, received a five in the science category.

Flanary cited new science standards as a main factor in low science scores.

“The state is just about to finish two years of revamping science standards,” Flanary said. “Anytime they do that, you’re going to be behind the curve a little bit. I think everybody state-wide is taking a hit on science. I was in a meeting with the commissioner and she mentioned that science has been tumultuous, that and social studies. We look for greater scores this year.”

The interim director also said school and classroom observations of Washington County’s schools are of more importance than scores. And in turn, Flanary said, a job well done will improve the county’s scores.

“I think the evaluation of what we can observe is more important than the scores,” Flanary said. “We use a team evaluation system and as long as we know that they’re doing what they need to be doing everyday and principals are providing curriculum leadership and instructional leadership, that’s all (that’s needed).”

As for the areas in which Washington County is exceeding, Flanary said instructional coaches are a main component of that success.

“A lot of it has to do with our instructional coaches,” Flanary said. “They do what the principals would like to do if the principals had the time. They provide real instructional leadership, They’re the ones that go to the various curriculum meetings over the summer and throughout the school year to really get the details of the new standards and standard updates. They help these teachers understand them, they help the teachers pick them apart, put them to work in the classroom — that’s a lot of it.”

Though Flanary said what these schools do on a daily basis is a better measurement tool than the state’s report on student growth, he also said the figures provide a standard and an understanding of where Washington County is in “the ball game” of student scores.

“We’re competitive people. Just like at a ball game, we like to know what the score is,” Flanary said. “Even though we may know that it’s only a number and it’s only a fraction of a fraction of what we actually do, it’s a standard. It’s nice to have a five or four in growth because it just looks good. It’s great to be able to say you’re a level 5 or level 4 school and it gives us something to work on when we don’t get those high levels.”

The 2017-2018 TVAAS scores for each district and school in Tennessee are available for viewing at https://www.tn.gov/education/data/tvaas.html.