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Schools Get Graded Too

As a student, I can remember how excited I was to show my report card to my grandmother after I received it. After I looked over it, I would feel such a sense of accomplishment. I would rush home to see my grandmother’s eyes light up because she knew that she had helped me study even when she wasn’t feeling her best. Thinking about those memories, I wonder if my grandmother would have viewed my education differently or made different choices regarding my education if she had access to a report card for my school. School report cards are meant to serve the same purpose as a student’s report card- to show how the school is performing and where it is doing well and needs more support. Today, receiving my school’s report card evokes similar emotions to when I was a student.

The school report card uses school-level data to determine how much academic progress the school has made and what supports a school might need. After a year of feedback from parents, educators, and community organizations, the Tennessee Department of Education developed an online school report card platform that is accessible to everyone and easy to navigate. The school’s dashboard contains pertinent information about the school that was required by Tennessee’s ESSA plan, including student achievement, demographics, academic growth, attendance and more. Access to this valuable information gives parents insight, for the first time, as to how their child’s school is performing in a number of areas- it is groundbreaking!

As a teacher leader, I am always campaigning for what is best for students and teachers. School report cards are an immensely valuable resource for all stakeholders to drive discussion and action. Assessment data not only informs teachers of student’s academic standing, but also how instruction can be improved and refined. Additional data on the report cards such as attendance and graduation rates help school leaders and policy makers make important decisions that can potentially impact an entire community. This helps parents understand how their child’s school is doing and ensures that their child is getting a high-quality education and the support he or she needs. It is important for parents to review this information, so they can have meaningful discussions with the school and teachers, and so they can make informed decisions about their child’s education.

Tennessee’s state report card can be found here, and should be used by individual schools to drive discussions and changes for improvement. For example, my school is specifically focusing on increasing our student attendance. This illustrates how schools can use report card data to strategically focus on areas of improvement to enhance the school’s performance and the quality of a student’s education overall. Chronic absenteeism has a detrimental effect on students, as those who are absent are missing valuable instructional time that directly impacts their overall academic performance. Beth Maloney, a Teacher Champion from Arizona puts it, “The results of chronic absenteeism can be disastrous. Chronic absenteeism has been linked to reading below grade level in 3rd grade and not graduating in high school.” Our school report card has been the driving factor in our effort to address this issue.

For the first time, Tennessee stakeholders can access a school report card that is easy to understand and contains meaningful information. This is a huge step that is vital to moving our state’s schools forward. I applaud the work done thus far to create this tool, but there is more work to be done. As a community, we must band together and make sure stakeholders are accessing the report card to have meaningful discussions about change. Without knowing the facts, it is almost impossible to enact change or continue making progress for our students.

Candace Hines has taught for the last 7 years. She has served as a Regional Presenter, training teachers across various districts. Candace is currently an EdReports content reviewer and a facilitator for Teach Plus Memphis, leading their Teacher-Led Professional Learning Network. Candace graduated as a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society from The University of Memphis, with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education. She serves as Collaborativefor Student Success- Teacher Champion Fellow, and a Hope StreetGroupTennessee Teacher Fellow; engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.