Tennessee clearly conveys the alignment between the district accountability framework and the school accountability framework.
The state also selected a variety of different indicators that are related to long-term student success and are aligned with its goals of improving students’ postsecondary success.
Many of Tennessee’s indicators can be met in multiple ways, making it difficult to compare schools.
While the indicators appear strong on the surface, the actual calculations are complicated and at times unclear, and ultimately may result in a lack of transparency and comparability across schools. It is problematic that many of the state’s indicators, such as achievement, ready to graduate, and chronically out of school, can be met in multiple ways and have different expectations for each school and student subgroup. This makes comparisons from school to school and year to year difficult.
Given how difficult it will be for parents to compare schools, Tennessee has taken steps to consider how it will communicate to parents and other stakeholders whether a school was evaluated based on absolute performance or growth toward targets. The state should also make clear what that means for student success and how to think about comparisons between schools.
Tennessee should be commended for including district-level accountability and transparency measures.
However, it could do more to clarify how the district-level grades interact with school-performance grades. More could also be done to clarify the consequences of low district performance. Tennessee should also be commended for including different indicators that provide parents and stakeholders with a more holistic view of school performance.
Tennessee is clear about alternate diplomas and participation rates.
For its graduation indicator, the state makes very clear that students who receive a special education diploma, certificate of completion, or any other degree or certificate not fully aligned with the state’s academic content standards are not counted in the four-year or extended-year graduation rate. The state will also require a 95 percent participation rate for all students and for each subgroup, and will use the participation rate as a very rigorous accountability indicator. Schools receive an automatic “F” on the achievement indicator if the 95 percent figure is not reached, a strong rule that other states should consider emulating.