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Tennessee's schools get performance goals.

Tennessee will be first in the nation to have performance goals for every school system in the state, according to State Education Commissioner Charles Smith.

The performance goals are part of the 21st Century Schools plan which gives school systems more resources and greater flexibility in exchange for higher academic standards and greater accountability to the public.

Smith released local performance goals for the year 2000 and standards for the yearly school system progress in five target areas: student learning, proficiency skills, graduation, promotion, and attendance.

"The 21st Century Schools plan puts in place one of the toughest accountability systems in the country," Smith said. "The plan offers incentives for school systems that meet performance standards and sanctions for systems failing to make significant yearly progress."

According to the Southern Regional Education Board, a non-profit group which monitors state education policies, Tennessee is the first state in the nation to pass a law requiring performance standards for every school system and the use of value-added assessments to set academic goals and measure yearly progress being made in the schools.

"This is a major step in the history of public education," Smith said. "We are watching closely to see that school systems do what they say they are going to do and to see they comply with the new law.

"The emphasis on performance goals and outcome is a new direction for the Department of Education in the oversight of local schools. Rather than focus on how schools are teaching, these goals concentrate on educational results for students."

Governor McWherter's 21st Century Schools education reform package makes Tennessee one of the first states to give the commissioner of education authority to place on probation school systems or schools that fail to meet performance standards. Continued failure to make progress could lead to dismissal and replacement of the superintendent and/or members of the local school board.

Incentive funds for school system performance will be available by the 1994-1995 school year. Weights for each goal will be recommended later for State Board of Education approval. These will be used to determine if a school system qualifies for the extra funds.

The Tennessee Department of Education has developed performance standards for each school system so the local community can easily see the yearly progress needed to reach the year 2000 goals. This information will be included in the new, more detailed annual report cards the Department will issue on each school system in October.

The yearly improvement standards for each school system were calculated by dividing the difference between current performance levels and the performance goal by the number of years remaining until the year 2000. If a school system meets or exceeds a performance goal before the target date, the system is required to maintain that performance level in subsequent years.

Smith said Tennessee's 21st century education goals are consistent with national goals for education. "These are high goals that we believe are fair and achievable for Tennessee school systems. Working to achieve these goals will significantly improve education in Tennessee," Smith said.

Performance goals for academic gain, attendance, and graduation rates are required by the 21st Century Schools legislation. At the request of the McWherter administration, the state board of education approved goals for these and two additional areas--promotion rates and high school proficiency.

To help local school systems achieve these goals, the 21st Century Schools legislation provides additional resources for smaller size classes, new textbooks and instructional supplies, technology for classrooms, alternative programs for disruptive students, more instructional aides for teachers, counselors for students, and detailed reports on achievement so teachers will be better able to determine and address each child's education needs.

Mr. Owen is with the Information Office of the Tennessee Department of Education.

Performance Goals for Tennessee School Systems

Student Learning--Achieve an average gain in reading, languages, math, science, and social studies in grades 3-8 equal to or greater than the average national gain in these subjects on standardized achievement tests. The 21st Century Schools plan specifies the process for determining value-added gain, commonly referred to as the Sanders Model. System-by-system data will be available by April 1, 1993, as required by the legislation.

Proficiency Skills--Achieve 90 percent student mastery of math and language arts on the high school proficiency test. In 1992, 86 percent of Tennessee students passed the math proficiency test and 82 percent passed language arts. A new state proficiency test with more advanced skills and new cutoff standards will be established by 1993-94. Performance goals for the new test will be set by 1995-96.

Graduation--Achieve a school completion rate of 90 percent. The rate includes students who receive a regular honors or special education diploma or certificate in June or August graduations and students 19 years old and under who graduate from an adult high school or receive a GED credential. Currently, the statewide graduation rate is 71.8 percent.

Promotion--Achieve an average student promotion rate of at least 97 percent for grades K-8. Half of Tennessee's school systems currently meet this standard. The state average promotion rate is 95.6 percent.

Attendance--Achieve an overall average attendance rate of at least 95 percent for grades K-6 and 93 percent for grades 7-12. The current state rate of attendance for K-6 is 94.7 percent and 92.1 percent for grades 7-12.
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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:Owen, Sidney
Publication:Business Perspectives
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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