Williamson County Schools get straight As in Achievement
By Skip Anderson, For the Williamson Herald
Williamson County Schools once again received straight A's for overall academic achievement on its annual report card administered by Tennessee Department of Education, and took bold strides of improvement in the two other principle areas of assessment.
For the third consecutive year, TCAP scores of students in grades 3 through 8 commanded an “A” grade in the four basic disciplines of math, reading/language, science, and social studies, according to data released by state officials Wednesday. The state average in each category is a “B” grade.
“What the report card data tell us is that we're doing very, very well in Williamson County,” Dr. Mike Looney, superintendent of the Williamson County School System, said.
Arguably more notable than holding steady with straight A's in academic achievement is the marked improvement of the three-year average of academic growth in kindergarten through eighth grade. Last year, county schools received no “A” grades – reading/language and social studies each scored a “B,” math a “C,” and science a “D.” This year, A's replaced the B's and C, and the D in science has improved to a B.
“Williamson County is an example for the state that it is possible to have great achievement and high growth in the same year,” Kevin Huffman, Tennessee Commissioner of Education, told the Williamson Herald. “They show it can be done.”
Also, according to Looney, county high school students scored a county-record average of 23.1 on the ACT, a college entrance exam. The benchmark is 3.9 points above the state average.
These academic achievement benchmarks have improved annually since Looney became superintendent in 2009.
“It's a similar feeling to when my wife gave birth to our children,” Looney said. “I'm not quite that happy, but it's close.”
One area of performance Looney is likely not happy with is that of gap measure closure, a metric of tracking No Child Left Behind, a program designed to ensure students of all ethnicities, economic backgrounds, and with or without disabilities receive the same quality of education. A rating of “yes” indicates the system achieved acceptable parity, “no” means it did not meet the majority of gap closure goals. The Williamson County School System rated “no” in eight of a possible 14 categories.
"All subgroups showed strong growth, and as the Commissioner of Education pointed out, WCS showed high growth for all student groups. Our students of all ethnicities, economic backgrounds, and with or without disabilities are making impressive gains, and we are committed to accelerating their growth," Looney said.
“We were disappointed, that's for sure,” said Kevin Deck, assessment analyst for WCS. “That's basically where we failed. To be fair, we did close the gap on a lot of these, but not enough.”
Deck said that this is the first year the state used the gap measure closure accountability system.
“It was a new measure for us, and we didn't realize where some of our weaknesses were. It was eye-opening,” he said. “We recognize that certain students are performing at a higher rate than others. One of our goals is to close the gap.”
While Williamson County schools rank tops statewide, Tennessee's public schools scored in the bottom 10 nationally in all four areas of study in the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress Report.
Posted on: 11/1/2012