TCAP given to Carter County kindergartners, first graders this year for first time

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

Kindergartners and first graders who are currently registered in Carter County Schools were administered the TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program) test designed by the state for the first time this year. Grades K-2 are not required by the state to take achievement tests; however, some school systems opt to give them.
   "I truly think that it will be a help in improving our scores in the future, but it's going to take awhile before we see results," said Shirley Ellis, Carter County Schools director of federal projects and testing on Wednesday.
   R and L Carriers, a transportation company contracted by the state, picked up 81 large boxes filled with completed TCAP tests yesterday and delivered them to Nashville. Ellis said exactly when the tests will be scored and results received is dependent upon the number of school systems who sent their tests to Nashville before Carter County Schools.
   "It took about four days of counting and verifying that we have everything to send back, since the kindergarten and first grade tests were included," said Ellis.
   In previous years, the school system administered the Brigance achievement test to kindergarten students. Developed in 1977, the Brigance test is designed to assess early learning skills such as letter and numeral recognition, color identification, and other developmental skills in reading and math.
   "We weren't completely satisfied with the information that it provided us, and with the TCAP achievement test being mandated by the state in third grade, we wanted to make sure that there was an adequate curriculum in kindergarten and first grade to support that test," Ellis said.
   The TCAP test for the early grades provides a foundation for those students when they advance to the next grade. Also, teachers will know how to group children and whether or not a topic they planned to teach has been taught before.
   "It will remove redundancy so that we aren't teaching in second grade something that has already been thoroughly taught in first grade," said Ellis. "The results of the test should show those standards that we need to improve on and how well we're doing."
   The major difference between the Brigance test previously used and the TCAP test is in the amount of detail covered in the questions, according to Ellis. "There is a lot more detail in general on the TCAP test, a lot more math questions," she said.
   In past years, first graders, instead of the Brigance test, were given a test that teachers within the Carter County School system developed themselves. This year, the TCAP test replaced the first grade test as well.
   Kevin Ward, elementary supervisor for Carter County Schools, said that a lot of staff development workshops were held this year with the hope that TCAP scores will go up, especially in the Language Arts area, the subject that most counties throughout the state received low TCAP scores in for 2002.
   "We've tried to get principals and teachers working together much more also, and this TCAP will just give us another base line to look at a little earlier to identify where a student's weaknesses may be," Ward said.