Tennessee’s 2020-21 TCAP participation exceeds expectations

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(July 27, 2021) - Tennessee Department of Education announced the state’s Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) participation rates for the 2020-21 annual assessment administration, achieving an overall participation rate of 95% statewide.

During the January 2021 Special Session, Public Chapter 2 removed negative consequences associated with accountability for districts and schools whose district-wide TCAP participation rate was 80% or higher. The department is excited to announce that 100% of districts met the 80% participation rate, with 80% of districts having met the federal 95% participation rate.  

More than two million TCAP tests were administered this year to approximately 750,000 students.

“After a year of uncertainty and disruption, we must celebrate Tennessee’s achievement and success in administering a strong statewide assessment to measure our students' academic progress. This data will be crucial to inform efforts by the state, school districts, educators and families to ensure all students are able to recover from the pandemic and accelerate their learning,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “District leaders and educators spent an extraordinary amount of time attending trainings, communicating with families, and developing thorough safety plans to ensure that our students could test in person and that we would have reliable data, giving all Tennesseans a clear sense of where students are and where they will need additional support. I am so proud of their hard work for kids." 

For a full list of spring 2021 TCAP grades 3-8 achievement and end of course (EOC) participation rates by district, click here.

In efforts to maximize participation, the department provided flexibilities to support districts, including offering an extended assessment window in the spring, off-site testing options, and constant communication and individualized service to districts through daily webinars.  

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that 95 percent of students participate in assessments in grades 3-8 and in high school. Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education provided flexibility around the 95 percent participation requirement during the spring 2021 testing window, having approved the Tennessee Department of Education’s amendment to the state’s ESSA plan to hold harmless districts that reached an 80% or higher participation rate.

Tennessee’s districts used innovative, creative strategies to maximize participation. By working with families and local health agencies, districts were able to develop customized assessment plans that served their communities’ needs, like Giles County Schools utilizing a local church to test virtual third through eighth graders. Additionally, Anderson County Schools designed an in-person testing schedule that split classes by student last name and utilized multiple classrooms per course to maximize social distancing.

“I am pleased at the TCAP testing participation rates this year, especially given the significant learning challenges students, teachers and parents have had to overcome,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey. “To encourage TCAP participation, I was glad to be able to co-sponsor legislation in the Senate to ensure educators and school districts are held harmless from any negative consequences associated with 2020-2021 student assessments. These assessments are so important to track progress and identify any educational challenges, and I am proud of the hard work teachers and students put in this year to continue to learn and grow.”

"We are all coming off of an unprecedented year in public education. Giving the state-wide annual assessment was a top priority for Clinton City School,” said Kelly Johnson, Director of Schools, Clinton City Schools. “It is essential that we measure student academic progress in a reliable and valid format. While a hold harmless year with accountability was much appreciated and needed, districts still need this data to guide instruction moving forward. The data will guide our instructional programming from the individual student level to setting district goals. Our high participation rate can be attributed to the collective efforts of all staff, students, and parents recognizing the importance of standardized assessments."

“As SCS reimagines education in our community, the importance of assessing the academic performance of our students is critical,” said Dr. Joris M. Ray, Director of Schools, Shelby County Schools. “Thanks to our families and educators, we exceeded the State’s TCAP participation goal. Their support of this endeavor – especially throughout these challenging times, is helping us move in the right direction to best support our students.”

"Annual assessments within our schools, and the data we receive back from those assessments, are critical in helping our district make informative decisions for our students and schools. The pandemic was a challenge for all in the state. We had to pause and take a step back to see how our students were learning so we could address any learning loss or learning gaps within our system. Even though the majority of Putnam County students remained in-person throughout the 2020-2021 school year, our students, teachers and administrators had to manage the challenges of quarantine and adapt to remote learning for students choosing that option. State assessment scores from 2020-2021 will help give us a more clear picture of where our students are academically and what supports will be needed to close any learning gaps," said Corby King, Director of Schools, Putnam County School System.

“I’m grateful to our local school districts for their commitment to preserving our state’s high education standards during a year of unprecedented learning disruption,” said House Education Instruction Subcommittee Chairman Scott Cepicky. “The data from these tests will be critical in helping our local educators determine where our students are and what further remediation is needed to ensure their academic success.”

“In the interest of continuous improvement and primarily, the ongoing quest to ensure our students learn at the highest levels, we value the importance of annual assessments, even and especially during a global pandemic," said Dr. David Snowden, Director of Schools, Franklin Special School District. "FSSD educators strove to provide our typical exemplary instruction and support in 2020-2021 despite the difficult circumstances and having reliable data to measure the impact of both will help guide our immediate and long-term decisions.  We truly believe that our parents are our partners, and we include them in as much of our planning and decision-making as possible. When we work together, the buy-in and trust that is built between families and schools is unbreakable.”

“The state assessments in combination with local data will prove to be invaluable as we use the results to meet each child where they are and begin the process of acceleration for all students,” said Dr. Shane Johnston, Director of Schools, Jefferson County Schools. “A high participation rate provides us with more continuity in scores and reliable data points for comparison to previous years.”

The department will release TCAP assessment score results on Monday, Aug. 2. To learn more about the state’s assessment program, visit the State Assessment webpage.

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