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TN REPORT CARD: Rutherford's ACT scores, grad rates further increase; district spends millions less than state average

December 13, 2016

By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools 

MURFREESBORO — Rutherford County Schools has a graduation rate topping 95 percent, an average composite ACT score of 20.8 and spends $1,000 less than the state average per student, according to information released today as part of the annual Tennessee Report Card. 

“I am proud of our administrators, teachers, students and parents for working together and further improving both our graduation rate and our ACT scores,” Director of Schools Don Odom said. “Our graduation rate places us in the upper level of all school districts in Tennessee, and our ACT scores are nearly a full point above Rutherford County’s average from last year and the current state average. Those scores reflect a significant increase, and our schools should be commended for a job well done.”

The Tennessee Department of Education released the report, which typically shows achievement and academic growth information for every school district and each public school in the state. This year’s report, however, is missing much of that information because of incomplete testing data from last school year. Testing for grades 3-8 was canceled last year by the state because of problems with the online testing platform. 

Students in high school did take end-of-course exams last spring, and as such, the report does include achievement and growth data for those students. However, the accuracy of the data is suspect because the Department of Education announced the tests would not count toward the students’ final grades.

The Tennessee Department of Education and the state Board of Education also established higher score thresholds that students must meet to be considered proficient when taking end-of-course exams. These thresholds are commonly referred to as “cut scores.”

“The data reflects tougher academic cut scores from the state level, which certainly affects our proficiency and performance results,” Director Odom said. “But we also know that some students did not give their best effort, which definitely taints the scores of our high schools and the district as a whole.”

Today’s release is the first phase for the report card redesign project, which began after education stakeholders and community members shared that they desired information that is easier to understand and that the previous layout may be difficult for some to navigate, according to the Tennessee Department of Education. The department plans to integrate additional data points and information into the new layout over the coming years. Parents can view results from all schools and districts via the Tennessee Report Card HERE. 

The Tennessee Department of Education also is releasing individual reports for parents with students in grades 9-12 who took end-of-course exams. The parent reports provide insights and suggestions to empower parents so they can help with their children’s academic progress. In Rutherford County, those reports will be released to parents with report cards in January. 

The new report card also shares school and district-level results from the first year of TNReady. The department released state-level TNReady scores in November, which set a baseline for future growth based on new, educator-developed expectations that will better ensure all students are on track to graduate prepared for college and careers, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.

The report reflects the following key indicators for Rutherford County Schools:

  • Rutherford County Schools spends $8,495 per pupil, which is $1,004 less per pupil than the state average. Considering Rutherford County Schools has approximately 43,000 students, that is an annual local savings of $43.1 million compared to the state average. 
  • Operations funding for Rutherford County Schools is comprised of the following sources: State - 51.31%, Local - 41.66%, Federal - 7.02%.
  • The composite graduation rate for all Rutherford County high schools is 95.2%, an increase from the previous 93.9%.
  • The average ACT score for Rutherford County Schools is now 20.8%, an increase from the previous year’s 19.9%. The current state average is also 19.9%.
  • 48.4% of high school students meet eligibility for the ACT Hope Scholarship 
  • More than half of Rutherford County’s teachers hold an advanced degree beyond a bachelor’s degree

Director of Schools Odom will give an overview of the report at an upcoming meeting of the Rutherford County Board of Education.