FSSD sign

In the release of 2020-21 accountability data from the Tennessee Department of Education, the Franklin Special School District achieved Level 5 status — the highest possible — on its composite score. 

The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) composite score is based on a 0-5 scale and includes the district’s literacy and numeracy scores, both of which were also at Level 5. These TVAAS scores quantify students’ growth over time on state TCAP assessments. 

“The challenges of last year were immense, yet our students, teachers and families worked very hard to engage in their classes, both in person and virtually,” Director of Schools  David Snowden said in a news release from the district. “These incredible scores at the end of such a unique year are a testament to their incredible fortitude and willingness to succeed despite facing many obstacles to the teaching and learning process.”

“The commitment to excellence is an expectation in our district,” Snowden added. “Despite numerous challenges, we are thrilled to be able to retain our Level 5 Status.” 

In the last release of accountability scores in 2019, the FSSD also achieved a Level 5 on its composite score; however, literacy was identified as an area needing improvement. While numeracy was at level 5 in 2019, the literacy score that year was a 1. In 2021, literacy was the district’s most improved category, moving from a level 1 in 2019 to a level 5 in 2021. 

The district has placed a high priority on ELA/Literacy by defining it as one the four key goals of the FSSD Strategic Plan, Reach 2024

“Moving literacy from a 1 to a 5 is a huge accomplishment any year, much less one in which students are learning in a myriad of ways, including in person, remote and virtually,” Snowden said. 

Progressing to a level 5 in Literacy, while maintaining a sharp focus on numeracy, puts the district on a path to achieving its goals in the District Strategic Plan and beyond.

Middle school successes

The FSSD will not receive an official designation because of the “Hold Harmless” legislation, a measure which prohibits the use of TCAP data in accountability metrics for teachers, schools and districts for the 2020-21 school year. However, according to the release, there is much to celebrate about student results and the overall district performance from this past school year. A spotlight shines on two middle schools with this data release: 

  • Both Freedom Intermediate School (grades 5-6) and Poplar Grove Middle School (grades 5-8) achieved an overall composite score of 5, the highest level. 
  • Freedom Intermediate School was also named a Reward School for achievement by the Tennessee Department of Education. 
  • Freedom Middle School (grades 7-8) received a composite score of 3, but moved its literacy score from a 1 in 2019 to a 5 in 2021. 

Due to the closure of schools in the spring of 2020, none of the FSSD K-4 schools received a school-level TVAAS score for the year, as their students didn’t have previous TCAP results due to the March-May 2020 extended closure.  

Student achievement also excels

While the 2021 TVAAS scores provide insight into student growth year over year, the FSSD also excelled in achievement. The district scored a 4 for overall achievement in all tested subjects, which is the highest score possible in the achievement category. In a year of uncertainty, the district maintained its long history of outperforming the state in every grade level and subject area. In fact, the FSSD as a whole outperformed the proficiency percentage of the state by double digits in every subject area.

  • English/Language Arts = 14 percent higher than the state proficiency percentage
  • Math = 16 percent higher
  • Science = 27 percent higher
  • Social Studies = percent higher

Thanks in large part to teachers’ determination to provide exceptional instruction despite all of the unusual circumstances, as well as the students’ desire to receive that instruction, the FSSD’s overall TCAP performance ranks it in thetop 10 of districts across the state.

Other highlights

The following are other district highlights based on the TCAPreporting categories:

  • The district continues to outperform the statein the category of Chronically Absent Students,which produces a score based on the percentage of students who are absent for more than 10 percent of the school year. The FSSD’s rate of Chronically Absent Students was 6.8 percent, as compared to the state’s percentage of 15.5 percentage. This is exceptional for a year when student absences were predictably higher due to exclusions due toquarantines and virtual learning.
  • The FSSD’s overall TCAP performance ranks in thetop 10 of districts across the state.

Looking forward

Long before TCAP tests were administered in spring 2021, the district had assessed students throughout the school year to provide a tailored approach to learning loss. Strategies that have been implemented — or are planned for this year — to help students rise to the challenge of making up lost time in the classroom include:

  • Free Summer Learning Camps (held June 2021 and to be held in June 2022) for priority students in grades 1-8 as part of the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act, to provide additional learning opportunities essential to accelerate students’ educational growth.
  • STREAM Mini-Camps (Sept. 7-30, 2021) for a limited number of priority students after school. These camps are designed to shore up Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math concepts in an interactive environment, encouraging students to explore and problem-solve by analyzing situations and trying different methods to find a solution.
  • After-school tutoring opportunities in all grades. Certified teachers will provide after-school academic support for students. Transportation and snacks will be provided. 
  • United Way’s Raise Your Hand after-school tutoring with trained volunteers for reading and math (ongoing) for elementary students.
  • Increased phonics instruction for foundational literacy (ongoing). FSSD early grades teachers were trained over the past several months in a phonics-based approach as part of the Reading 360 initiative, sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education.
  • Continued emphasis on social emotional learning (SEL) and mental health supports (ongoing). The FSSD understands the pandemic’s profound effect on some students and it now has certified therapists with offices in every school through a partnership with Mercy Community Healthcare as an added layer to counseling programs. There is also a therapy dog in every building to help children who thrive with the support of the dog’s presence during times of emotional distress.
  • Intervention paraprofessionals (fall 2021) have been hired to focus on learning loss. Teachers are working with the interventionists on providing critical and timely support to students.

“There are certainly many areas to celebrate,” Snowden said. “We are extremely proud of the dedicated work and support our teachers provide daily to students. The schools will now continue the analysis of school-wide and student-specific data to determine areas on which to focus and improve. 

“Based on the TCAP data, we have already identified appropriate next steps and will continue to go about purposefully implementing strategies to meet the needs of each student and to provide the teachers with all of the support and resources necessary to meet those needs.”