About Test Scores

All public school students in Tennessee take the same standardized tests, the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). In 2016, the state introduced a new online testing program called TNReady, which was apparently not quite ready for prime time, because testing had to be canceled midway through the session for students in grades 3-8 due to technical difficulties. For that reason, there are no good 2016 test scores available to look at for those grades. For more on the state’s plans for the future, visit their website.

Test scores can be helpful as you’re trying to compare schools, but they can also be misleading, so it pays to invest a little time in understanding what the two basic test score types – Achievement and Growth – represent.

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Achievement

This score represents the percentage of students in a school who reached certain levels of proficiency, labeled “Below Basic,” “Basic,” “Proficient,” and “Advanced.” Be aware that this measure can be influenced heavily by how well-prepared or otherwise advantaged students already are when they come to the school. Also, you might not be able to get a good sense of the performance of students within specialized programs (like Optional programs) operating inside a traditional school from this overall figure.
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Growth

Growth scores measure not where students are at a given point, but how fast they are progressing. Tennessee measures growth with the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System, or TVAAS, the nation’s longest-standing growth measure of its type. A school that has high TVAAS scores (measured on a scale of 1-5) is helping students catch up or move ahead quickly, regardless of where they started.

About Memphis School Guide’s Scores

On each school profile page, we show the publicly-available scores for both Achievement and Growth in 2015. The Achievement score shown is a composite of its scores in reading and math only. The Growth score is its composite for all tested subjects in all tested grades. On the State of Tennessee’s Report Card, you can see each school’s test scores in more depth.

However, even schools that don’t have publicly-available test scores (because of how long they’ve been open, the grades they serve, or the fact that they’re private schools) are likely to be doing some type of assessment of their students that they should be willing to share with you. You might ask them, “How do you evaluate progress and growth for your students?”

Thinking About Test Scores

  • Achievement or Growth? While both types of scores can communicate helpful information, in general, Achievement scores tell you more about the students in the school, whereas Growth scores tell you more about what the school is doing with those students.
  • What are they testing?For several years now, teachers in Tennessee schools have been responsible for teaching to the recently-adopted Tennessee State Standards, aka Common Core. However, through 2015, students were still being evaluated on tests aligned to the state’s previous set of standards. While the state is trying to make the switch to a Tennessee State Standards-aligned test (with some difficulties), the 2015 scores that we currently show are for tests that were aligned to the old state standards. There is disagreement about how much this affects scores, but it’s certainly something to consider when factoring test scores into your school choice.
  • Tests measure the past. No test is perfect, so test scores can never be a perfect measurement of what is going on inside of a school, and at best, they’re a look at what has happened in a school – not necessarily what is currently happening. If there have been major staffing changes, or other interventions, as there have been in many ASD and iZone schools, test scores may look different in the coming years.
  • Test scores are just a starting point. You can take test scores into consideration as you’re narrowing down your list, but they are no substitute for a more thorough investigation through school visits, interviewing teachers and administrators, and talking to other parents whose children have recently attended the schools you’re considering.