Weakley County Schools Ranks 16 in State

Weakley County Schools Ranks 16 in Tennessee For Third Grade ELA Scores
Posted on 05/25/2023
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Data released this week from the Tennessee Department of Education shows that Weakley County Schools’ spring TCAP scores for third grade ELA [English Language Arts] set the district’s ranking at 16th highest out of 144 districts in the state.

The release of TCAP scores has been highly anticipated as they relate to the state’s legislation that went into effect this school year. The new law mandates that any 3rd grade student who scores below “proficient” on the TCAP test will not be permitted to advance to the 4th grade unless the student participates in specific activities that demonstrate proficiency. Activities include re-testing, attending summer school programming at 90% attendance, and participating in tutoring for the entirety of the 4th grade school year.

Supervisor of Elementary Instruction Terri Stephenson believes that students in Weakley County Schools are not defined by test scores.

“While our district had 51.81% of students who are scoring in the State’s category as ‘proficient,’ there are 31.88% of students who are rising in the category of ‘approaching’ proficiency. This is a number that tells us that our teachers are helping grow our students in the right direction. Behind all of these numbers are real students who are working hard with teachers to move and improve. Scoring 16 highest out of 144 districts highlights that the supports we have in place are working, but there is more work to do,” explained Stephenson. 

The district has implemented foundational systems that support the initiatives and goals for setting up students for success. Administrators from all schools work together regularly to support teachers and their instruction with intention and consideration to learning deficits. Utilizing ESSER 3.0 funding, the district established an After School Scholars program that offers tutoring services with the student’s own teachers at their school that includes busing options. 

“Scoring in the approximate top 10% of Tennessee’s districts two years in a row for ELA scores is a result of having specific systems in place that support teachers and students,” explained Assistant Director of Schools Betsi Foster. “We have a robust reading curriculum with supports for teachers and implementation. We have academic coaches in every building, highly skilled educational assistants that are trained to teach reading, and supportive Principals who have a clear understanding of good reading methodology and practices. We have small group tutoring and reading intervention for struggling readers. We’ve built a customized tutoring system, After School Scholars, where students work with their own teachers who understand their learning needs. Giving teachers the support they need helps them, in turn, better support their students,” Foster acknowledged.

Comparable neighboring districts’ total proficiency scores varied. Obion County Schools scored 40.1%, and Union City Schools scored 29.41%. Gibson County Special School District’s proficiency score was the highest comparable district in West Tennessee at 55.56%. Henry County Schools scored 42.57%, Dyer County Schools scored 44.62%, Paris Special Schools scored 42.27%, and Milan Special School District scored 33.68%. While these figures represent the percentage of students who scored proficient on the TCAP test, this data does not show the percentage of students who are approaching proficiency. 

Weakley County Schools’ ELA scores for the last two years rival or exceed the scores of affluent districts in Tennessee that have more financial resources to pay for private one-to-one tutoring and other learning opportunities. 

Director of Schools Randy Frazier believes that a single test score doesn’t reflect whether or not a child can read. 

“It’s important to remember that this 3rd grade group were Kindergarteners when COVID shuttered schools across the nation. Learning loss is not a county, regional, or even just a state issue - it’s a global concern. Poor legislation, politics, and a single TCAP test score does not help or ensure that our students can read. We’ve set up systems of success in order to support teachers and students. We focus on small groups, professional development, and the science of reading. Our teachers and administrators are doing amazing work. Our ELA scores for the last two years clearly show that we are moving in the right direction, and we’ve got more work yet to do,” said Frazier.
The State’s legislation on 3rd grade retention is connected to the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act, titled SB7002 and HB7004, passed in February 9, 2021, to go into effect for the 2022-23 school year. 

To get more information about the law, the State’s qualifying list of activities that demonstrate proficiency, or to see all TCAP District Averages for 3rd Grade ELA, visit tn.gov/education/news.html.

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