Education Commissioner Discusses Affects for New State Accountability for Williamson schools

New accountability standards that give letter grades to each school across the state will go into affect for 2017.

What that will mean for each Williamson County School will depend, in part, on how students do on tests this year as the baseline. Starting in the 2017-2018 year, the state will determine achievement and growth at each school.

The new accountability standards derive from the Every Student Succeeds Act along with resolutions passed by the state legislature this past session. The state will give students a letter grade A-F, with each category broken down numerically to demonstrate where the state collected the grade. Four guiding principles went into the consideration of forming the letter grade, with the opportunity for districts to earn an A in a number of ways.

Under ESSA we were required to differentiate schools,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “That means we would have a full accountability model where you can differentiate how schools are doing.”

As proposed, growth and achievement could potentially weigh the same, though the percentages haven’t been entirely determined. Last week at the Williamson County School Board retreat, that seemed to concern some district and school board officials. But McQueen said high-performing districts can still demonstrate growth, even if they are starting near the top.

In general, Williamson does well because it’s high achieving,” McQueen said. “It won’t disadvantage high achieving districts. They are going to do well because of that achievement, and there’s the opportunity of the new TN Ready test that will give them room to grow.” 

The district’s chronic absenteeism rate along with student readiness when they graduate high school also play a roll into the letter grade, but at a much smaller fraction. Students having to go through in-school suspension or take their education to an alternative school will not be counted into the chronic absenteeism. Expelled students will become a part of an inactive list, which will also not count toward the percentage.

Those who are ready for the world outside the classroom will also be judged based on ACT scores, preferably above 21. Career technical training and a student’s class load also go into the configuration.

Overall, Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney said he had a cautiously optimistic outlook that the standards would reflect the district accurately, along with how every school is doing in Tennessee.

“In advance of the state board’s formal decision about the proposed new accountability model, I have shared my input with Commissioner McQueen,” Looney said. “I am satisfied that she has listened and heard my concerns. She has expressed a willingness to rethink a specific portion of the proposed accountability model, and I look forward to an outcome that I believe will more accurately reflect the achievement for all students in the state of Tennessee.”

Emily West covers Franklin, education, and high school football for the Franklin Home Page. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.