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Letter Grades For Tennessee Schools Finally Released, Some Districts Get Bad News

Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Education

The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

Letter grades for Tennessee schools have at long last been released but the news is grim for some districts with greater than 25 percent of all public K-12 schools receiving Ds or Fs.

According to Commissioner of Education Lizzette Reynolds, the rating system is meant to give Tennessee families a “snapshot” of how their local schools are performing.

“No matter what your school’s letter grade is, everyone can play a role in supporting the success of our students and the success of our schools by engaging with your local school communities and joining the conversation,” said Reynolds.

Each school’s “grade” is based on four factors: overall success rate for achievement, overall growth, how much the lowest performing students have grown academically – and for high schools – how prepared students are for college and careers.

Tennessee Education Association President Tanya Coats says that the grades are heavily weighted on a “flawed high-stakes standardized test.”

The legislation that requires all public schools in the state to receive a letter grade was passed by Tennessee lawmakers under Governor Bill Haslam in 2016. Implementation was delayed for 8 years due to various factors; a testing snafu in 2018 and more recently, the pandemic played a major part in the delay.

Schools that received a poor grade are facing possible corrective action, requiring them to follow a plan for improvement, and state audits, and may have to appear before the State Board of Education in the 2024/2025 school year. The kinks in that process are still being worked out.

Of the schools that received Fs, almost 50 percent are located in the Memphis-Shelby County Schools district.

According to data from the Tennessee Department of Education, almost a third of the 1,700 schools eligible to receive a letter grade received a C, and less than half were awarded an A or B. 

The breakdown across the state is as follows:

A: 17.4% (294 schools)

B: 26.09% (441 schools)

C: 30.36% (513 schools)

D: 20.71% (350 schools)

F: 5.44% (92 schools)

However, some schools did not receive a grade because of “data suppression and business rules” which amounted to 210 schools being excluded. According to the education department, programs that serve adult learners, for example, were not given grades.

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Public school performance was previously rated on a scale of 1 through 4 on the state’s report card with 4 being the highest score. The number system is not being replaced by the letter grades according to a spokesperson for the education department. The report card will be updated in the new year to account for 2023 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) testing.

The new letter grade system was finally implemented after a series of 10 town hall meetings hosted across the state earlier this year. The state also invited the public to submit comments resulting in about 300 responses. Recordings of those meetings can be found HERE.

When Tennessee lawmakers reconvene for another legislative session at the beginning of 2024, Representative Mark White will be carrying legislation in the House for Governor Bill Lee’s “freedom” scholarships, aka vouchers.

Letter grades will almost certainly be part of the conversation in both the House and Senate as bills are introduced and debated.

About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at paula@tennesseeconservativenews.com.

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