TDOE Launches Public Engagement Opportunities on School Letter Grades
Tennesseans Invited to 10 Town Halls;
Public Comment Now Open
Nashville, TN—Throughout the fall, the Tennessee Department of Education is inviting all Tennesseans to participate in public engagement opportunities on best practices for determining School Letter Grades, which will measure how the state’s K-12 schools are serving students and helping them succeed academically.
In 2016, T.C.A. § 49-1-228 was established and required the department to develop a school letter grading system beginning in 2017-18 to provide parents and families with information that shows how our public schools are performing. The state’s letter grade legislation is intended to provide a snapshot of how each school performed during the previous academic year and compare those results over time.
However, in the years following passage of the legislation, testing administration issues and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic delayed a roll-out of school letter grades as part of Tennessee’s state accountability system. Simultaneously, the U.S. Department of Education is requiring adjustments to components of Tennessee’s plan to comply with federal accountability requirements and after months of coordination, the department continues to await feedback and/or approval.
Tennesseans deserve an accountability system that produces clear information about how our schools are performing so they can best engage to support their student’s education. Similarly, as students are already returning to classrooms following summer break, Tennessee schools and districts need clear information on how they will be measured this fall.
That’s why the department is inviting members of the public—including families, teachers, community members and decision-makers—to discuss how to measure school performance and report that information to parents and families in a transparent, easy-to-understand way. Our goal is to engage Tennesseans to help create an A-F school letter grade system that gives them the information they need to understand school performance.
This fall, the department will seek input from stakeholders and members of the public through a variety of engagement opportunities, including small group conversations, local town halls, social media, and written public comment. In November, A-F letter grades will be published for each school on the State Report Card, as part of the department’s annual accountability release.
“Whether you are a student, parent, teacher, policymaker, or an interested community member, school letter grades will empower all Tennesseans with the information they need to support K-12 public education and our local schools,” said Lizzette Reynolds, Commissioner of Education. “I encourage all Tennesseans to join us at a town hall or submit a public comment to share what you want to know about schools in your community and how they are serving your kids.”
In addition, Tennesseans are invited to submit public comment on their top priorities for measuring a school’s academic success, and how the state should measure progress towards those priorities. Public comment can be submitted to email@example.com by September 15, 2023.
The School Letter Grades Public Town Hall schedule is below:
View the department’s Facebook page for additional logistics information.
- Tuesday, August 15: Mid-Cumberland Region
- Thursday, August 17: First Region
- Tuesday, August 22: Southwest Region
- Wednesday, August 23: Southwest Region
- Thursday, August 24: Northwest Region
- Tuesday, August 29: Southeast Region
- Thursday, August 31: East Region
- Tuesday, September 5: Upper Cumberland Region
- Wednesday, September 6: Mid-Cumberland
- Thursday, September 7: South Central
"Parents of our K-12 students should have a clear understanding where schools fall on a grading scale in comparison to other schools just as we do for our K-12 students. This will provide that understanding,” said Senate Education Chairman Jon Lundberg.
"A-F letter grades provide a straightforward mechanism for differentiating the performance of Tennessee's public schools, serving as a valuable tool for all stakeholders. This is especially important for parents, helping them make the important choice of where to send their children to school," said House Education Administration Chairman Mark White.
"Tennesseans want our students to receive the best education in the country. A-F letter grades will provide all stakeholders— county commissions, districts, teachers, parents, students, school boards, and tax payers— a clear measure on the performance of our schools," said House Education Instruction Chairlady Debra Moody.
“A-F letter grades will increase transparency within districts for both parents and students, so they have a clearer understanding of scholastic achievement, as well as areas that may require additional attention for improvement,” said House Education Instruction Subcommittee Chairman Scott Cepicky. “Enhanced transparency in grading will also support our educators in both their planning and instructional execution in the classroom, allowing Tennessee to move closer to its ultimate goal of becoming number one in the nation in education.”
In response to the U.S. Department of Education’s monitoring findings, the department held comprehensive engagement meetings with stakeholders across the state to discuss needed adjustments to the state’s accountability system, including an amendment to the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan. Federally, the ESSA Act replaces the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which requires states to meaningfully differentiate between schools and how they are serving students. In 2017-18, the state’s ESSA Plan was created, which outlines federal compliance requirements, such as rigorous academic standards, high-quality assessments, and district and school accountability.