TSS Blog

The Tennessee Ready Graduate Indicator should be an important part of Tennessee’s School Letter Grades

In 2016, Tennessee created the Ready Graduate Indicator as part of its compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The indicator is a powerful accountability tool that keeps parents and school leaders informed on the postgraduation outlook for their students. Equally important, schools with high numbers of Ready Graduate qualified students are eligible to receive additional outcomes-based funding on a per-student basis under Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA).

Though this scoring metric has been in use for some time, it has recently been a significant topic of discussion relative to A-F School Letter Grades, which the Department of Education is set to roll out in November 2023. Most members of the working group that’s been tasked with fine tuning School Letter Grades seem to agree that Ready Graduate should be included in the overall grading formula for high schools.

Here is a quick rundown of how the Ready Graduate Indicator works:

In comparison to some other accountability measures, the Ready Graduate Indicator is decidedly uncomplicated. It consists of an aggregate sum of graduating students meeting specified criteria, which is then divided by the total number of graduating students.

To meet the criteria for Ready Graduate, students must first meet minimum standards for attainment of a high school diploma or an alternative education diploma. Students earning one of the two diploma options must then meet at least one additional criterion to qualify as Ready Graduates.

The first option is completion of four Early Post-Secondary Opportunities (EPSOs).  While the department outlines several qualifying EPSOs, Advanced Placement (AP), Dual Enrollment and  department-promoted industry credentials are most common. To meet qualifications for Ready Graduate status, students only need to complete the EPSO course and attempt the associated final exam—they do not need to achieve a particular score on the exam.

The second pathway to Ready Graduate status for students is completion of two EPSOs with an additional industry credential.

The third option is completion of two EPSOs and earning a military-readiness score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Batter (ASVAB).

To calculate a school or district’s Ready Graduate percentage, the number of students meeting Ready Graduate criteria is divided by the total number of students in the graduating cohort.  This decimal is then multiplied by 100, yielding the school’s overall score. For example, if 72 out of 100 total graduating seniors meet Ready Graduation conditions, the school’s score would be 72 percent.

While it is likely that the Ready Graduate Indicator will be a component of the A-F School Letter Grades formula, it is still unclear how much weight will be assigned to it in the final calculation.  Since the indicator is a powerful accountability tool that schools are already familiar with, we recommend that it account for at least 20 percent of high schools’ overall letter grade.

After considering recommendations from the working group and data modeling, the Department of Education will present the proposed School Letter Grades formula to the State Board of Education on November 2.

We look forward to seeing how this new tool for transparency is put to use.

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