Schools' scores lower, but ....

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By Damon Lawrence

The lowest scores you have ever seen.
Parents of Roane County Schools students can expect to see that when the state report card is released later this year, according to Director of Schools Toni McGriff.
She attributed the pending gloom to changes in how student achievement is measured by the state.
The standards have increased.      
“It doesn’t mean the children know less,” McGriff told Board of Education members last week.
The Tennessee Department of Education produces the report card each year. Student achievement is measured in such subjects as math and reading/language.
McGriff showed the board a presentation about what impact the changes are expected to have locally.
In addition to lower scores for Roane County students, McGriff said other repercussions will be a confused and upset public.  
“Because it’s going to look like we haven’t done anything,” she said.   
Board Chairman Mike “Brillo” Miller said the school system should take some preemptive actions to try and prepare the community for what’s ahead.
He suggested the presentation that was shown to the board be shared with parents during public meetings.
“We could let the principal at each school do it,” he said. “I’m just trying to make it easier on them, the teachers and the kids. Maybe if the public was aware of what’s happened, because I guarantee you, 90 percent of them don’t know about this.”
McGriff said the school system has taken steps to prepare for the changes.
A poll last month by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education found that 69 percent of Tennessee voters strongly support the state’s decision to raise standards in subjects, such as reading and math.
“Strong public support for standards reinforces the fact that Gov. (Phil) Bredesen, the General Assembly and the state Board of Education are doing the right thing by raising the bar in education,” SCORE chairman and former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist said about the results.
SCORE said support increased to 71 percent after voters heard statements for and against higher standards, including the argument that student test scores could fall.   
“Tennessee voters are understandably cautious yet hopeful about the prospects of education reform,” Frist said. “They are clear in their support for high standards in the classroom, even if it means some discomfort as students and families adjust to more rigorous coursework and homework.”  
Another repercussion of higher standards is schools not making Adequate Yearly Progress goals.
“They will not be punished in any way,” McGriff said of the schools that miss goals. “There will be things they have to do to try to get over that. It’s basically just internal, improvement of schedules and that sort of thing.”
There could be a price to pay in the eyes of the public.
“The punishment will be the – I’m looking for the right word – the bad reputation, the bad feeling toward a school that doesn’t make AYP,” McGriff said. “Public perception.”