The Value of TN Ready Reports for Parents, Teachers, and Especially Students
By Amy Barbra
This year, I started my eleventh year of teaching. I love my job and believe with all my heart that I have been called to do it. I love that feeling you get when you see your students achieve a hard-earned goal. Let me give you an example. One of my favorite students so far has been Eric. Eric came to me struggling academically. He had a lot of obstacles to overcome, but I saw so much potential. After the first quarter, I realized that this boy was smarter than he was giving himself credit for, so I pulled his test records to get a glimpse of the bigger picture. What I saw was a boy who always seemed to be right on the cusp of proficient; close but no cigar. In my class, I noticed he was weak in academic vocabulary skills and reading comprehension, especially longer passages. I determined to focus on that with him throughout the year. The year came and went. Eric passed my class, and he moved on to the seventh grade. The next school year, when the then T-CAP scores came out, he rushed up to me, so excited! “I scored proficient! I did it! I finally got proficient!” His joy was contagious! My heart leapt with pride! When I reflected on this experience, I realized that the seemingly minor adjustments I made in the classroom made all the difference in the world for him.
Soon, parents will be receiving reports in the mail informing them of their child’s academic performance for the previous year. The Tennessee Department of Education lists four goals for education. They include: “Tennessee will rank in the top half of all states on NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) by 2019; 75 percent of Tennessee third graders will be proficient in reading by 2025; The average ACT score in Tennessee will be a 21 by 2020; and The majority of high school graduates from the class of 2020 will earn a postsecondary certificate, diploma, or degree.” Since 2011, “on the NAEP test, Tennessee has been the fastest improving state since 2011, with students showing more growth over time than students in any other state”. Recent data shows that 43 percent of Tennessee’s third graders scored proficient in reading. Tennessee high school students have set a new record of scoring an average of 19.9 on the ACT test. And 29 percent of our high school graduates are obtaining some type of certificate, degree, or diploma. This is great news, and it reflects the hard work and dedication of students, teachers, and parents to rise to the top of the academic ladder in our nation. Understanding these reports and what to do with them will benefit greatly in meeting these goals.
I’m a parent. What are these reports going to tell me about my child? We all want the best for our children, and education certainly is no exception. In order to give our children the best possible education, we need a true picture of their progress in school. TNReady reports do just that. You will have a clear picture of your child’s academic progress compared to his or her peers across the district and state. With this information, you will be able to meet with your child’s teacher(s) and create an individualized roadmap of success for him or her. You will be better positioned to support your child’s learning at home through thoughtful planning and strong communication. In addition, TNReady reports provide transparency about your child’s “readiness for postsecondary and the workforce among Tennessee colleges, universities, and employers”.
Well, I’ve been teaching for many years, and I’m very good at it. What will these reports provide me? These reports will help you strengthen your instruction and better reflect upon your practice. A good teacher never stops learning; a great teacher takes constructive criticism as an opportunity to become even better. This data will show you what you are doing well and where there is room to improve. Using data to guide instruction in the classroom isn’t a new concept. It reveals gaps in our teaching so we can fill them. Plus, it holds us accountable to serve all our students fairly. In addition, TNReady provides us with an opportunity to see what other schools are doing well so we can learn from one another. Mike Winstead, Maryville City Schools superintendent, was named Superintendent of the Year for 2017. He says, “Torture the data until it confesses everything it knows”. Who is doing what well, and how can we learn from them?
So, as a student, what do these TNReady reports do for me? These reports are an excellent way to gauge your readiness for the next steps in your academic journey. Let’s face it. Today’s students are being prepared for jobs that aren’t even in existence yet, and we only have thirteen years to get you prepared for your future. There is little time to waste. These reports will show you how you are progressing compared to students across the state and if you are meeting your grade level expectations. They will also help you see your strengths and areas of growth. Perhaps you are wondering if you are truly ready for college courses or may need remedial classes first. These reports will help you answer some of these tough questions honestly.
TNReady reports will be mailed home to parents soon, and teachers have already received theirs. When they appear in your mailbox, take the time to, as Mike Winstead said, to pick apart that data until it reveals all their secrets. Then, students and parents, make an appointment with your teachers to create a roadmap to ensure success for you and your child’s future. Teachers, embrace this opportunity by using the data from last year to improve what you do in the classroom this year. Tennessee has set some lofty goals when it comes to education. With students, parents, and teachers working together, we can help the Volunteer State soar to the top of the Nation!
As this initial test cycle is completed, the Tennessee Department of Education and Questar have communicated a timeline for moving forward so that reports will be received in late summer. For more information on TNReady and TN Succeeds, visit the website, www.tn.gov/education/topic/tnready.
Amy Barbra currently teaches 8th grade American History at Madisonville Middle School. This is her eleventh year in education. Recently, Ms. Barbra was named a 2017-2018 Tennessee Educator Fellow with SCORE, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, whose mission is to drive collaboration on policy and practice to ensure student success across Tennessee. SCORE is an independent, non-profit and non-partisan, advocacy and research institution, founded in 2009 by Senator Bill Frist, MD, former Senate Majority Leader. Ms. Barbra’s work through the Tennessee Educator Fellowship centers on her desire to see all students succeed and equip teachers with supports to help make that happen.