Over the summer, state and Metro school officials braced parents for what they knew would be disappointing student test results following heightened academic standards.
Ramped up standards on statewide achievement tests could now play a factor in whether Metro Nashville Public Schools and individual Metro schools achieve adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Director of Schools Jesse Register said he expects the state to deliver NCLB results to the school district toward the end of November. In the past, NCLB results were released in the summer, but the new standards pushed the timeline back.
“We’ve got to recognize that we have raised our standards very significantly,” Register said of the upcoming results. “We now have very high standards for our students. As a result of that, individual student reports will show that children are performing at a lower level than they were before. That doesn’t mean they don’t know as much. It just means we’ve changed the goal.”
Register said this year would set a “baseline.”
“It’s where we are now,” he said. “What’s important is that we start building around that baseline. How quickly do we reach those standards, and are we making adequate progress as we go forward?”
After improvements in 2009, Metro avoided state or mayoral takeover, which would have been possible if the district had slipped from “Restructuring I” to “Restructuring II” under the federal guidelines. Instead the district progressed to “Improving,” where it stands today. There are six Metro schools that are either classified as “Restructuring I” or “Restructuring II.” The latter allows for alternative school governances.
Heightened benchmarks could potentially push more Metro schools onto the district’s “high-priority” list. Register said it boils down to what the state and federal government approve as a “transition” to the new standards.
“We could be OK, or we could not, based on what that new transition looks like,” he said.
Unlike previous years, NCLB will be released during the school year. The implications of that are still unknown.
“Practically speaking, the school’s year is almost half over,” Register said. “If we get scores that show that a school’s status changed, in part because of those new standards, then how should the state or the federal government react to that?
“What I hope happens is that we’re not interrupted, that we’re allowed to proceed on with instruction this year,” Register said. “Then, let’s look at that data this year, see where we are, and see what we can do by the end of the school year.”
As Metro schools prepare for the release of federal scores, the future of the controversial federal law pushed is murky.
Since March, President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan have talked about overhauling the NCLB law and changing the standards.