NewsNewsChannel 5 InvestigatesMaking The Grade


State Board Of Education Approves New Rules For Testing

Posted at 11:00 PM, Jul 14, 2016
and last updated 2017-04-19 16:34:27-04

Sweeping new rules have now been approved as a result of a News Channel 5 investigation of Metro Schools.

The rules -- from the Tennessee State Board of Education -- limit how high schools across the state can use so-called "credit recovery" programs to let students earn credit on a computer.

Dr. Sara Heyburn, the board's executive director, told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that the changes were prompted by questions raised by our investigation.

"What we discovered in some research that we did on the heels of your reporting was that districts have a variety of practices when it comes to credit recovery," Heyburn said.

Our exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation revealed allegations of students being pulled from classes they were sometimes passing -- because of concerns that their scores on critical End-of-Course exams might pull down the scores for their schools.

Students like Toni Jones were assigned to credit recovery programs to study required courses on a computer on their own.

Heyburn said, "Our board has charged the staff at the state board with an on-going review of all of our policies, and this one really rose to the top as one that we wanted to expedite and revise."

Under the new rules, such credit-recovery programs will not be an option for students who had not been given a chance to complete a course.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted that "a student would actually have a to fail a course before they could be put into credit recovery."

Heyburn agreed.

"And not only would they have to fail it, but it would actually have to be at 50 percent or higher -- because what we don't want is for a student who has failed it abysmally and really needs to retake the course to be put into credit recovery," she said.

As to that provision, Metro Schools has a policy that no child can ever receive a grade below a 50. The new rules do not change that policy.

Still, the rules do require that schools get permission from a student's parent or guardian before enrolling that child in credit recovery.

And such programs must be supervised by teachers with expertise in the subject.

Our investigation also discovered evidence that, while Metro was boasting about higher scores on ACT college entrance exams, a large percentage of 11th graders at some schools were not even taking the tests.

Metro Schools officials argued it didn't really matter whether they took the tests as juniors or waited until they were seniors.

"The law is very clear about that," Heyburn said. "So again one of the other significant changes in the revised proposal that will go to the board in a couple of weeks is that that be clarified in the policy: it's a requirement for 11th graders and it's a graduation requirement."

The new policy was approved by the State Board of Education on July 22. The rules include provisions that allow school districts to be penalized if they don't follow the rules.

Related stories, documents:
NC5 Investigates: Making the Grade