Chair of Tennessee State Senate Education Committee Takes Third Grade TCAP Test

State Senator John Lundberg (R-Bristol) recently took the state test administered annually to Tennessee’s third-grade students. He said he found it to be fair, devoid of trick questions, and completable in a reasonable time frame.

In a phone conversation with The Tennessee Star, Lundberg said, “I heard a lot of concerns from parents around third-grade retention, and TCAP [Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program.] I felt I owed it to them to delve deeper into the subject, and so I asked the department of education to allow me to take the test.”

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) is reticent to allow access, but in this instance, the agency complied with his request. As a result, Lundberg said he feels he has a better understanding of what students annually face. In his opinion, the test provided ample time for students to complete all questions, and the questions were straightforward and devoid of tricks. He conceded that there is more to the test than just reading. There are questions on grammar, spelling, and the proper usage of homonyms like there, their, and they’re. 

He told The Star, “While the test is not just about reading, if a student can’t score proficient on it…they are going to have some problems.”

Problems, he would argue, that require additional efforts.

Not everyone agrees with him. Critics argue that TCAP fails to address what lawmakers and supporters think it does.

In a commentary piece for the Tennessee Lookout, chief communications officer for Haywood County Schools and a former teacher of English and Literature, Gabe Hart wrote, “Thankfully, there are progressive benchmark assessments in place already that are approved by the Tennessee Department of Education that actually measure reading fluency and comprehension. These assessments are given three times a year and have students read aloud and answer basic comprehension and vocabulary questions.”

He argued that benchmark tests would better indicate student progress than the state’s annual test. It’s an opinion echoed by many of the state’s educators.

State Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), who chairs the Education Instruction Subcommittee, has been providing an opportunity for teachers to address Tennessee House lawmakers. Teachers have seized this opportunity to voice their concerns about the TCAP and third-grade retention laws.

At yesterday’s committee meeting, long-time Marshall County educator Rebecca McKay told legislators, “An eight-year-old who met the benchmarks all year long using state programs, solid grades all year, and with no control over his environment, should not be judged on this test.”

She said, “You also don’t have to look in the eyes of students and parents who have worked all year and say, no matter how hard you worked today, one test determines your status, and you have to stay in your third-grade classroom.”

Lundberg did not receive a score for his efforts on TCAP. Scoring is more difficult than administering the test since scoring requires more than just marking answers “correct” or “incorrect.” A student’s score is calculated based on several factors and is derived through a complex formula.

First, a student receives a “raw score,” which is the number of points a student earns on the test. That score is converted into a “scale score” using a common scale that allows for a numerical comparison between students. Depending on a student’s scale score, they will be placed in a “performance level.” Performance Levels describe how well a student has met the expectations of the content area based on Tennessee Academic Standards. These levels align to scale score cuts, which are established by Tennessee educators.

All TCAP tests contain “field questions,” which are scores included on TCAP on a trial basis. They are not factored into a student’s score and serve as a quality control measure. Items that are effective during field testing will become an ‘operational’ item on a future TCAP test and at that time, contribute to a student’s score.

Lundberg said he feels that legislators have crafted a quality law designed to put students first and ensure they get their required services. Despite his conviction, he told The Star that he remains committed to keeping an open mind when hearing arguments for amendments that would improve the law.

Over the coming weeks, the Senate Education Committee will hear several bills with that intent.

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TC Weber is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. He also writes the blog Dad Gone Wild. Follow TC on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected] He’s the proud parent of two public school children and the spouse of a public school teacher.
Photo “John Lundberg” by John Lundberg. 




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2 Thoughts to “Chair of Tennessee State Senate Education Committee Takes Third Grade TCAP Test”

  1. Joe Blow

    Randy – You are so absolutely correct.

  2. Randy

    More money less education. More often than you think the right answer is no. If the legislature caves on this issue the decline in public education and the march towards social engineering will be in double time.