Tennessee Adopts New Testing StandardsTuesday, September 07, 2010 By Amanda Alarcon
This school year has commenced and a vast, new change has been introduced state-wide for the testing curriculum. The expectations have been heightened and a percentage of students may have a hard time overcoming the barriers that come along with this change. In Tennessee, testing standards in the past have been issued as a three level percentage based report. As of last year, the scoring scale began at eighty four percent or above qualifying as ‘advanced’. The second level of the scale ran between eighty four and seventy percent. If one scored at this level, the result would have qualified as ‘proficient’. The final level began at anything seventy percent or below qualifying as ‘below proficient’. Tennessee has been in the process of reforming education since 2008, when the state was issued an ‘F’ for education. This school year, however, the state of Tennessee has issued a new testing standard that is broken down into a four part percentile system. Now, around ninety percent is advanced, between ninety and eighty three percent is deemed proficient, between seventy and eighty three is basic, and anything below seventy is below basic. The exact numbers of percentages are subject to change; however the levels have been set. Students may have noticed a heightened level of difficulty in testing in recent years and will definitely notice the changes coming. For the next few years, there will be a benchmark period for schools to adjust to this radical change in the curriculum. Low test scores will follow in the benchmark period, which may alarm some students and parents. Schools will fall below achievement standards for the state. Fewer students will test out as proficient in the next few years. By 2013 to 2014, every Tennessee school will have to meet a very high expectation; to have one hundred percent of students reach the proficiency level or higher. If a school does not make this set bar, the school may be inducted as being a ‘target’ school. This goal is implemented to raise the standards of education across Tennessee, due in part as a result of Tennessee receiving 500 million dollars in Race to the Top funding from the federal government. “They have definitely upped the ante all the way around….it’s going to be a shock when this [testing results] hits the papers and people are not going to understand,” said Mrs. Reynolds, when asked over the new scoring in the testing curriculum. Mrs. Reynolds also stated the increase to eighty three percent for scoring proficient will be like “a slap in the face,” to some and it will be a painful transition. The painful transition, however, will be made easier by the staff of Hardin Valley. Mrs. Reynolds has made it evident that on early release Wednesdays, teachers are in fact going to be collaborating with one another to discuss how to better their performance in the classroom. Teachers will be working with new skills to better target students’ understanding of certain concepts within their course. Although obstacles may cause complications along the way for Tennessee students, they will eventually learn to adapt and conquer the bumps in the road ahead of them. Tennessee has set a new bar on education that may not be met in the next few years; however Tennessee has already provided a better education for its students by doing so. Failure may be inevitable. The drive behind the reformed education curriculum will overcome these obstacles.