by Joe Kirkpatrick
Lately, you cannot hardly pick up the local newspaper without seeing something about "Michigan Avenue -- Bradley County's Blue Ribbon School." I'm sure Michigan Avenue is a good school, but the implication of being a "Blue Ribbon School" leads one to believe it is the best of the best.
Now, for a person who is not a professional educator, my article this month is going to be a bit hard to follow. In fact, the way the state grades schools is hard to follow!
The latest thing in evaluating schools is something called "value added" score. The "value added" score of a school has nothing to do with the overall "TCAP" (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program). TCAP scores are arrived at by giving every child in grades 3-5 a comprehensive test consisting of reading, language arts, math, science, and social studies.
This test gives an accurate evaluation of how a student stands up academically against the national average. "Value added", on the other hand, is how much a student improves over their scores of the previous years. Classroom teachers in Tennessee are judged primarily by the value added score, not the TCAP score. This is great for teachers and schools who have below average TCAP scores, because they have improved. However, if a school has high scores year after year, the teachers and that school are penalized and given a low value added score.
In the Bradley County School System, the overall average in grades K-5 for TCAP scores is 55.4 for the 2002 school year. Remember, this is the true