Before joining SCORE, I taught fourth grade at an elementary school in Nashville. As a fourth-grade teacher, I used data from classroom assessments, district benchmark assessments, and state Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) assessments to better understand my students’ progress toward mastery of our fourth-grade Assessment2 5-2015standards. My classroom assessments asked students to explain their thinking in writing and challenged them to apply the knowledge and skills they learned in class to real-world problems. These assessments didn’t just show me where my students were on their path toward mastery of our standards, they allowed me to understand how my students arrived at
answers and gave me the information I needed to quickly adjust my instruction to meet their needs.

End-of-year TCAP assessments were important measures not only of my students’ progress toward mastery on our standards. They also provided important measures for teacher evaluations and school progress. Even so, these assessments consisted solely of multiple choice questions, making it hard for me to understand how my students arrived at their answers and limiting the usefulness of the data received. In 2010, Tennessee began transitioning to new, higher standards. The adoption of these standards raised expectations for student learning and called for significant instructional shifts to occur in classrooms. Tennessee teachers have been eager for an assessment that can better measure the problem-solving and critical thinking skills emphasized by the standards.

SCORE’s report, Meaningful Measures of Student Learning: Improving Assessment in Tennessee, recommends a path forward for improving assessment in Tennessee as the state develops the TCAP replacement assessment, TNReady. This paper presents the potential impact high-quality, aligned assessments could have on education in Tennessee, outlines the history of standards and assessments in Tennessee and across the nation, provides an overview of the quality of assessments implemented since 2001, and establishes evidence-based criteria for high-quality assessments. The paper concludes that in order to ensure students in Tennessee are progressing toward college and career readiness, it is critical to complement Tennessee’s State Standards in English language arts and math with high-quality, aligned assessments.

Assessment is a critical tool for teachers, students, parents, school and district leaders, and policymakers in their efforts to support improved student learning in Tennessee. SCORE’s new report lays the foundation for the development and implementation of a high-quality, aligned assessment that would give teachers better information to use to increase student achievement in their classrooms. It is essential to provide Tennessee teachers, who have worked hard to shift their instruction to help students reach the higher demands of MeaningfulMeasuresCoverTennessee’s State Standards, with assessments that reflect and drive the challenging instruction happening in their classrooms.

To learn more about what these assessments should look like and how to support Tennessee’s transition to higher quality assessments, you can f
ind the report, Meaningful Measures of Student Learning: Improving Assessment in Tennessee, as well as other SCORE policy memos here.