City schools show TCAP gains
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Aug 02, 2013 | 986 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Martin Ringstaff
Martin Ringstaff
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The Tennessee Department of Education has labeled the Cleveland City School district as “intermediate” thanks to significant gains in the recently released TCAP scores.

Director of Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff said students hit every achievement standard placed by the state.

“We blew away the state increases all across the board,” Ringstaff said. “It was a fantastic day for us all the way around.”

Every school system is judged based on their achievement and gap closure status. Achievement scores are seen in the report’s annual measurable objective and growth performance charts. The percentage of students with scores proficient and advanced are separated according to certain subjects and grade levels.

Cleveland schools showed noticeable growth between 2012 and 2013.

Seven of the 11 categories in 2012 found the percentage of students with proficient and advanced scores in the 40th percentile range. All seven areas were increased enough to move the scores into the next level. Five of the seven categories saw an increase of 5 percentage points or more: 3-8 math, 9 percent growth; third-grade math, 7.1 percent growth; seventh-grade reading and language arts, 10 percent growth; seventh-grade math, 9.1 percent growth; and 9-12 Algebra I, 9.4 percent growth.

Test score increases effectively moved scores out of the 30th percentile range with the new lowest percent of proficient and advanced students being 9-12 Algebra II at 42.1 percent. As Ringstaff pointed out, the lowest score still showed 5.1 percent growth.

Recently released charts reveal the school system met the state standards in every category. Additionally, Cleveland City Schools showed higher growth than experienced by the state. The state’s lowest percentage was a decrease in 9-12 English II by -1.2 percent, whereas Cleveland’s lowest percentage was an increase in 9-12 English III by 2.1 percent.

Overall, the school system showed a cumulative 63.8 percent growth across the 11 categories.

Ringstaff said he is happy Cleveland met the state standards in all areas.

Much of the growth was attributed to the SchoolNet benchmark testing put in place for the 2012-13 school year. Students were tested every nine weeks. Teachers could then specifically highlight where each child was struggling.

Ringstaff also highlighted the flip side of the percentage results. If 47.4 percent of students in 3-8 RLA scored proficient and advanced, then 52.6 percent did not.

“So obviously in my eyes that is bad, but we are where we are supposed to be,” Ringstaff said. “We’ve got to get a lot better. We can celebrate we made what the state said we were going to make. I am celebrating the fact we had 9 to 10 percent gains.”

Continued Ringstaff, “We are doing the right things, I think. We’ve just got to continue to do them and do them even better this year. So yeah, let’s stop and let’s applaud and let’s say, ‘We did what we are supposed to do. Now let’s do it even better than we are supposed to do.’”

While achievement scores merit nothing but praise by Ringstaff, the gap closure results have received another reaction.

The state requires school districts to meet eight of the 14 gap closures. Cleveland City Schools met four: Black/Hispanic/Native American vs. all students in 3-8 math; economically disadvantaged vs. non-economically disadvantaged 3-8 math; economically disadvantaged vs. non-economically disadvantaged 3-8 reading; and economically disadvantaged versus non-economically disadvantaged Algebra I/Algebra II.

Three of the four gaps closed by Cleveland in 2013 deal with economically disadvantaged students. This same group was one of two which placed the district in need of improvement status in 2012.

Ringstaff explained the problem is while there have been gains in every subgroup, there have also been increases by all other students.

“Here is the question I have for America, and everyone else,” Ringstaff said. “How ... do you target this? How do you get [subpar group scores] better without telling the top of the gap not to get better?”

While only four of the state standards were met for gap closures, six of the categories showed a decrease in the gap between subgroups and all students.

The challenge for Cleveland is finding what it would take to close the 35.6 percent gap between limited English proficient vs. non-limited English proficient 3-8 reading or the 21.5 percent gap between Black/Hispanic/Native American vs. all students. According to recently released charts, the state is struggling with the same question. All state gap standards are 14.7 percent or larger.

Ringstaff mentioned noticeable growth was seen in all subgroups, a statistic not shown on the gap closure chart. Specific subgroup information is broken down in individual charts.

“Yeah, we want to close the gaps, but we don’t want to hold anyone back,” Ringstaff said. “I am very happy, as a superintendent, with [the scores]. Not only did we hit the marks the state set, but we blew them away. In doing so, we widened some of the gaps because all of the kids got better.”

He said he wants students to come to school and have fun doing so.

“We are training teachers how to teach collaboratively [through CommonCore standards],” Ringstaff said. “I think the kids will have more fun in school. If they are having more fun, then they are participating. If they are participating, then they are learning.”