Amid pandemic, a few schools in Tennessee Valley are managing TCAP skill gains

At Sale Creek Middle / High School, principal LeAnn Welch said “the grain” is the theme for this school year.

Sale Creek high school math students recorded some of the state’s most impressive skill gains in Tennessee standardized tests last year – a year in which most schools have seen declines significant student performance that officials attributed to learning interference caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But in Sale Creek, math students’ performance on Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests saw their performance drop from 21.9% in 2019 to 31% in 2021.

Welch told The Times Free Press on Friday that Sale Creek had started to focus on improving math skills before the pandemic using educational materials and tools like a district education guide, as well as communication between teachers. and educational coach Erica Schmidt, also a math teacher.

The theme of the grain extends beyond mere academic progress.

Todd Wood, an algebra II / precalculus teacher at the school, died of COVID-19 in September after a month-long battle in hospital.

“Even though he was in quarantine, he was still teaching, and teaching him in quarantine and even when he got sick on screen, he still showed up every day to teach the personified grain, and I am grateful to him for that.” , Welch said. noted.

Schmidt said building relationships with students had been central to the school before the pandemic. The school aims to organize quarterly conferences with the students.

“We do our best to find out what is going on with each student personally and academically, and so these conferences have played a role in that, so that [the students] set personal goals… for themselves based on past habits or a previous assessment and then what they thought they could realistically do, ”Schmidt said.

“The teachers really did a good job of transmitting, like, ‘We’re in the middle of something difficult, but we’re always going to move forward. We can always work to grow and do our best. “”

Make progress

Schools with the Fastest Skill Growth in Southeast Tennessee, by Subject, Comparing 2019 to 2021:

– Arts of the English language (3rd and 5th years): Palmer Elementary School, Grundy County – 10% in 2019, 27.5% in 2021.

– Secondary English (Grades 9-12): Polk County High School, Polk County – 22.4% in 2019, 31.6% in 2021.

– Secondary Mathematics (Grades 9 to 12): Sale Creek Middle / High School, Hamilton County – 21.9% in 2019, 31% in 2021.

– Mathematics (3rd to 5th years): Palmer Elementary School, Grundy County – 7.5% in 2019, 32.5% in 2021.

– Social studies (grades 6-8): Etowah Elementary, Etowah – 19.8% in 2019, 49.2% in 2021.

– US History (Grades 9-12): Central High School, Hamilton County – 24.8% in 2019, 50% in 2021.

Source: Tennessee Department of Education

Regional gains

State and district averages on statewide testing largely showed a decrease in skills due to pandemic disruptions. Despite this, a few schools in the Tennessee Valley school districts, like Sale Creek, have resisted the trend.

Etowah Elementary in McMinn County saw 29.4 percentage point growth in the social studies test for grades 6-8 students, from 19.8% in 2019 to 49.2% This year.

Sarah Carroll, a sixth, seventh and eighth grade social science teacher at Etowah Elementary, told The Times Free Press in an email Wednesday that the gains were a pleasant surprise.

“Seeing this growth made me feel like all the hard work that went into the school year was worth it! Carroll said. “If you ask any teacher in the state, they’ll probably tell you that the last year was the most difficult of their career.”

She credits the growth to the school implementing ‘live’ lessons during the pandemic in which quarantined or home-learning students could log in to class and participate rather than just posting homework online.

Photo gallery

Sale Creek Middle and High School TCAP Growth

“I think we all started with the idea of ​​trying to help these kids have as normal a year as possible. I tried to do as many hands-on activities as possible… Even though we didn’t. being able to participate in group projects while socially distancing themselves, having hands-on activities caught their interest, ”said Carroll.

English at Polk County High School showed skill growth of 9.5 percentage points. Palmer Elementary in Grundy County – which merged with Swiss Memorial Elementary this year – has seen the region’s strongest growth in English and math tests for grades 3-5.

Hamilton County schools also saw a sharp 25 percentage point increase in proficiency in U.S. history tests at Central High School. District spokesman Cody Patterson told The Times Free Press on Thursday that the increase was in part due to reduced participation in this year’s test, with more students taking dual-enrollment courses or seeking certifications industry compared to 2019.

Pushing forward

This year, Welch said, Sale Creek is building on its success.

“When you can prove that this plan is working, that the students have already embraced it, and the teachers have seen success with it, it kind of builds itself,” Welch said.

The school has also adjusted the way it views benchmark tests.

“We had to frame our message about how we use benchmarks and even baseline data. [Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program]. It’s not a punishment, it really is a time for them to show what they know and give us the opportunity to fill in the gaps, ”Welch said.

“I think having the support of the parents and reframe the way we look at the benchmark, I think that’s a huge step. [Schmidt] said, it’s not a ‘Gotcha’, it’s an ‘OK, let’s roll up our sleeves and figure out what we need to do to finally fill these gaps.’ “

Schmidt said the teachers talked to the students about the “grain” topic when they started the school year not knowing what to expect.

“We talked about how we’re not going to ignore the storm, and we’ve had a lot of trouble this quarter. We’re still going to dive into our work and try to focus on that to help us distract a bit, and we’re not going to ignore what we’re going through, but we’re going to move on anyway. “

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at [email protected] or 423-757-6592.

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