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Business, Free Enterprise and Constitutional Issues; Pro-Life and Pro Second Amendment. Susan Lynn is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee, a member of the Finance Ways and Means Committee and the Ethics Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Monday, July 31, 2017

TNReady high school scores improve across all subjects in second year of new assessment

Thousands of additional students now meeting or exceeding course expectations

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today that Tennessee high school students improved across all subject areas – English, math, science, and U.S. history – on the 2016-17 TNReady end-of-course exams. Thousands of additional students are meeting course expectations compared to last year, and the state reduced the percentage of students scoring at the lowest achievement level across all subject areas.

TNReady is the statewide assessment administered to all students in grades 3-11. It is a more rigorous assessment, compared to past state tests, that is fully aligned to Tennessee’s academic standards, which are based on what students need to know and be able to do each year to ultimately be prepared for college and their careers. In 2015-16, high school students set a new baseline in the first year of TNReady, and as expected, their scores are beginning to increase as teachers and students adjust to higher standards that ensure students are ready for the next step in their academic journey.

“This growth is encouraging, and it shows our students are capable of reaching the high bar we’ve set with our expectations in Tennessee,” McQueen said. “It’s also promising to see not only overall improvement, but some bright spots in the performance of historically underserved student groups. The results from TNReady shine a light on what’s working and help us to identify where we need to better support students and teachers – so every student in Tennessee reaches his or her fullest potential.”

Students show growth in all end-of-course subject areas
Overall, scores improved in all subject areas and on nearly every end-of-course exam. Students’ scores on TNReady fall into one of four performance categories: belowapproachingon track, or mastered. Those students who score on track or mastered met or exceeded course expectations.

  • In English, students take three end-of-course exams in high school: English I, II, and III. Results on each exam improved this year, and across all three tests, 34.3% of students performed on track or mastered, a jump from 30.4% in 2015-16. Students had the biggest gains in high school English, with more than 11,000 additional students scoring on track or mastered compared to last year.

  • Across all high school math courses, 21.5% of students performed on track or mastered, up slightly from 20.8% last year. Altogether, over 4,000 additional students scored on track or mastered on high school math in 2017 compared to 2016.
    • In high school math, districts choose one of two tracks: algebra I, geometry, and algebra II or integrated math I, II, and III. Integrated math combines algebra and geometry throughout the three courses.
    • On four of the six math exams, the percentage of students who scored on track or mastered improved, and there were slight dips on two tests: algebra II and integrated math II. Notably, the districts participating in these two tests shifted as some districts continue transitioning to integrated math track.

  • There are two end-of-course exams offered in science: biology and chemistry. Results on both improved. This year, 51.0% of students scored proficient oradvanced on the high school science exams – up from 48.9% last year. That means about 4,600 more students were at or above course expectations.
    • The science exam has yet to transition to TNReady and includes the performance levels from the old TCAP: below basic, basic, proficient, andadvanced. In 2018-19, Tennessee schools will transition to new, more rigorous Tennessee academic standards in science, and that year, students will take a TNReady exam aligned to those higher standards.
  • In U.S. history, there was also an uptick in the percentage of students who performed on track or mastered – 30.8% in 2017 compared to 29.9% in 2016. That means about 2,800 additional students are now meeting course expectations in U.S. history.

Student groups show encouraging growth and highlight areas to improve
This year’s results also show some encouraging performance from Tennessee’s historically underserved student groups. In particular, for end-of-course exams in English, all student groups – students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged students, and Black/Hispanic/Native American students – improved on TNReady.

In many cases, student groups had fewer students who scored in the lowest performance level, either below or below basic, compared to last year. For example, last year on English I, 33.7% of economically disadvantaged students scored as below, but this year that percentage dropped to 20.7%. Notably, the percent of student with disabilities scoring at the lowest level of achievement decreased in every individual content area and fell by over 19 percentage points in English I. 

And, in a couple of cases, performance gaps narrowed between student groups and all students. On high school science, Black/Hispanic/Native American students outpaced the larger student population, and on high school math, the gap between students with disabilities and all students also narrowed. The progress shown by students with disabilities is particularly encouraging given that there has been an increase in the number of students with disabilities who participate in TNReady over the past two years, since the elimination of the modified TCAP.

Transition to online assessments continues
For the first time this year, high school students in 24 districts took TNReady online. This was the first year of a three-year transition to online assessments, and in 2017-18, all high school students will take TNReady end-of-course exams online. Additionally, districts will have the option for students in grades 5-8 to take TNReady online in 2017-18 before fully transitioning those students to online assessments in 2018-19.

In consultation with national experts, psychometricians with Questar and the department analyzed the results this year to ensure that scores are comparable regardless of whether the student took TNReady online or on paper.

Additional information coming soon
The release of the statewide end-of-course results starts the cascade of additional TNReady information that will follow over the next few months. Within the coming weeks, school districts will receive their embargoed district-level end-of-course results, as well as TVAAS growth data and their parent and teacher score reports.District-level high school end-of-course results will be released publicly after districts have had a chance to review their data. This fall, the department will finalize the scores and release the results for grades 3-8 at both the state and district level.

For more information on TNReady and the results, including specific details and additional data about today’s announcement as well as more information on the 2017-18 assessment, please visit the department’s website at TNReady.gov. For media inquiries, contact Sara Gast at 615-532-6260 or sara.gast@tn.gov.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Judge’s signature marks more than 16 years of sweeping foster care reform

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich today announced that after more than 16 years of system-wide reform and a massive turnaround, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) is now free of federal court oversight.

U.S. District Court Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw has approved the historic agreement between the state and Children’s Rights, the New York-based advocacy group that in 2000 filed litigation known as the Brian A. lawsuit that charged that Tennessee youth in foster care suffered in an overburdened system, describing children in crowded congregate care shelters and social workers with overwhelming caseloads.

Tennessee now has a thoroughly reformed foster care system. The reform comes after years of collaboration with Children’s Rights and the Technical Assistance Committee, a panel of nationally recognized child welfare experts that served as the federal court monitor for the Brian A. consent decree.

“This is monumental for Tennessee’s children and the state. After years of intervention, the federal government is saying that Tennessee is providing service to children in a way that models what it should look like for the rest of the country,” Haslam said.

“This stage in our journey represents the hard work, commitment and innovation it has taken to get here. So on behalf of our children, families, staff and partners, I can say that we’re just thrilled and thankful,” Hommrich said. “But the work goes on. We will always have tough problems before us. At DCS, we promise to bring our full energy and attention to whatever lies ahead, and we will use the same focus and dedication that has brought us to this point today.”

The reform follows intense work with a wide range of institutions, including Tennessee’s private provider network, the state’s leading universities, the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall Center for Children, the state’s juvenile courts and the Tennessee General Assembly.

DCS achieved its court-required performance during 2015, and the Brian A. agreement stipulated that Tennessee maintain that performance throughout 2016.
Highlights of the department’s reform include:
  • Among the nearly 140 foster-care benchmarks DCS achieved are measures of time to reunification, time to adoption, re-entry into the foster-care system, length of time in placement, parent-and-child visits and case-manager caseloads.
  • DCS emphasizes family-style placement for youth in foster care, in place of institutional settings such as orphanages.
  • DCS has become a national leader in timeliness to adoption and in implementing a child-and-family teaming model that encourages birth parents, case managers, care providers and foster families to work together on behalf of a child.
  • DCS has developed a process that has put the department on a path to a more professional workforce, with bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for case managers and supervisors.
  • DCS has built a robust, modern case-management computer system, TFACTS, that handles everything from case notes, management tools to billing days. It replaced a patchwork of computer systems that did not always work together reliably.
  • Although not a Brian A. requirement, DCS has achieved re-accreditation by the Council on Accreditation. Tennessee is one of the few states in the nation accomplish this.
  • Tennessee is the first state in the U.S. to offer independent living services to 100 percent of the youth who age out of foster care. This program is an outgrowth of pioneering work with private provider Youth Villages.

Today there are approximately 7,300 children in Tennessee foster care. The department is also responsible for the approximately 1,100 youth who comprise the state’s juvenile-justice population. These youth were not part of the Brian A. suit.
For more information on the Brian A. lawsuit, please contact Rob Johnson at Rob.Johnson@tn.gov.


Monday, July 24, 2017

OREA Publication on the IMPROVE Act

The state Comptroller has created a publication on the IMPROVE Act through the Office of Research and Education Accountability.

Link: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/Repository/RE/OREA%20IMPROVE%20Act_July%202017.pdf 

Historically Low Unemployment in Tennessee

The unemployment rate in Wilson County is at an historic low; 2.2% and for the state it is 3.6%. As a member of the Workforce Development Board I am very proud to see these historic numbers. This means that Tennessee will be growing - both in population and capital investment in order to keep up with demand.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Simple Thoughts...

This may seem like a weird post but I sort of feel divinely inspired to write these words so here goes. 
Until just recently, I never took much time to think about the powerful emotion of shame. Most probably think of shame as a very painful emotion, and if used as a cruelly by someone in order to hurt us shame is very painful. But when shame is experienced in the natural course of events either through our own conscience or due to instructive words from someone who genuinely cares for us or due to just ordinary conversation, it is a very constructive emotion if we allow ourselves to experience it, to learn and to grow because of it. 
Shame helps us to understand when we have done something wrong or to realize that we want to improve ourselves. It helps us to correct our own behavior and actions, to strive harder, and to seek beneficial changes. 
As Christians, shame should lead us to pray to our heavenly Father for forgiveness, to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and to show us how to make changes in ourselves so that we can function better in our lives and relationships. 
Some people are very shame-adverse. Unfortunately, being shame-adverse keeps children and adults from growing and from maturing to healthy relationships. 
Psychologists say that people who have an aversion to feeling shame will do several frustrating things to avoid the pain of ever feeling this emotion. They can become very easily offended by what we consider to be normal conversation. They will blame-shift – that is they will immediately point out something we do wrong as if this makes any difference to the subject at hand. They will fog – which is to claim that they don’t remember the event or claim that it didn’t happen as we know it did. They will also keep mental lists which they quickly pull out in order to attempt to hurt us back by reciting our warts and faults which can be confusing, hurtful or irritating because all along we didn't realize the conversation caused them to feel shame and thus was painful to them. 
The problem is, young or old, we all need to feel shame from time to time and to examine it. It is a tool to help us seek ways to make constructive changes in ourselves in order to achieve personal growth, and to develop integrity, healthy relationships and a clear conscience. Shame, when not used as a cruelty, is a very constructive emotion which helps us grow and mature. By diving in and fully allowing ourselves to feel shame we can know to pray and seek guidance. 
I know that this is sort of weird post but due to some of my reading lately I felt strangely moved to write about this emotion – maybe I was divinely inspired to write these words for someone and they will help them and I will never know…I hope so. Or maybe I need to do some praying for me