The TN Poverty Test

TCAP is Tennessee’s standardized test for grades 3-8.  At least until next year, when it is replaced with something designed by Measurement, Inc. that meets new Tennessee Standards.

TCAP stand for Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program.  But, it could just as easily stand for Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment of Poverty.

Here’s why:

An analysis of TCAP performance over time indicates that those school systems with consistently high levels of poverty tend to have consistently low scores on TCAP. Likewise, those systems with the least amount of poverty tend to have consistently higher scores on TCAP.

Much attention was focused on Tennessee and our “rapid gains” on the NAEP. Less celebrated by state officials was the attendant expansion of the achievement gap between rich and poor students.

One possible explanation for the expanding achievement gap is the investment gap among districts. That is, those districts with lower levels of poverty (the ones scoring higher on TCAP) also tend to invest funds in their schools well above what the state funding formula (BEP) generates. The top ten districts on TCAP performance spend 20% or more above what the BEP formula generates. By contrast, the bottom 10 districts spend 5% or less above the formula dollars.

It’s no accident that the districts that spend more are those with less poverty while the districts with less investment above the BEP have higher poverty levels. And, I’ve written recently about the flaws in the present BEP system that signal it is well past time to reform the formula and increase investment.

Of further interest is an analysis of 3-year ACT averages. Here again, 9 of the top 10 districts on ACT performance spend well above the state average in per pupil spending. The top 10 districts in ACT average spend an average of $900 more per student than the state’s average per pupil expenditure.

And, on ACT scores again, those districts with the highest poverty rates make the least investment above BEP dollars and typically see results below the state average ACT score.

While Tennessee may be moving to a new test in 2016, it’s not clear yet whether that test will do more than identify the poverty level and education investment of the state’s school districts.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

8 thoughts on “The TN Poverty Test

  1. The real issue with the expansion of the achievement gap is the expansion of Charter Schools. The very issue we were told (deceived) was Charters would decrease the achievement gap and research shows they do just the opposite and our NAEP results (which have been declining since the 2009 results were published) show that. With the expansion of Charters comes the expansion of the achievement gap. They progressives use the poor to push their agenda when the poor was not their focus to begin with but the privatization of education is what it is all about and eliminating elected school boards so there will be no interference from elected officials or those pesky parents. This is what Charters will morph into once the deed is done. The big 3 (Gates, Broad and Walton) will swoop down and hang their shingles on every Charter School in America. They are already heavily invested in Charter organizations. And there is a reason and it is called MONEY.

  2. Some info on Measurement Inc. They were hired in TN to replace the federally funded PARCC. Well guess what Measurement Inc is a cover for Smarter Balance and AIR (AIR & SBAC are partners) So we got rid of one federally funded testing agency for the other federally funded testing agency. Measurement Inc. works with Pearson to provide Psychometric Services (I hope that hit you in the gut) and they contract with AIR and Smarter Balance. AIR has received over $113 million dollars from Bill Gates. AIR (American Institutes of Research) are not an assessment organization. They are a behavioral research organization (POW another hit to the gut). AIR is also supported by the UN and the Open Society Foundation (George Soros). AIR just purchased from UTAH assessment questions for the state of TN at the tune of $2.3 million per year. We have a 3 year contract. So how sweet is that…AIR purchased UTAH Common Core aligned test questions for TN. So tell me why we just didn’t go to Utah and buy their test questions? Why did we have to pay out a fortune to Measurement Inc to create new assessments only to MI pay AIR to buy questions from Utah??? Could it be because the state cannot hand over the data the federal government and ever other tom-dick & harry that says the right words so desperately must have?? PARCC and SBAC has an agreement (and they got $360 million from the federal government)to create assessments for a consortium of states and then deliver STUDENT LEVEL DATA to the federal government. So the school pays a fortune so your child’s data can be given to people that have no business having your children’s information in the first place. Oh Governor Haslam you really think we are stupid and that we would not be able to peel back the onion you are handing us. SBAC is notorious for their adaptive testing methods (to measure and change values and attitudes) and have been considered the worse of the 2 companies. So we just bought an uglier pig than we had before and dressed it up with a nice new shade of lipstick hoping the public won’t find out.

    • I’ve looked at the “new” Tn state standards. They are the same as the Common Core standards that everyone was ranting about. Same pig just a new color of lipstick!

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