Tennessee parents are in for a shock next year when their kids’ TCAP scores came back, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam said Friday in Chattanooga.
Only 25 percent of students who take the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program will test as “proficient,” the Republican gubernatorial candidate told members of SETPAC.
When the federal “No Child Left Behind” bill passed it 2001, he explained, students were required to be tested for academic proficiency.
But NCLB allowed states to “set (their) own bar” regarding what constitutes proficiency and “unfortunately, Tennessee set its bar really low .
. . one of the lowest in the nation.”
However, starting this school year the state will rank test scores based on national – not state – guidelines, Mayor Haslam said.
“If Tennessee students perform (on the test) the same way they did the last time . . . only 25 percent will be considered proficient,” he continued. “That’s a real wake-up call . . . and if we let it go, shame on us.”
Already, he said, Tennessee has one of the lowest-performing educational systems in the nation, ranking 42nd among the 50 states.
“If you started school here last year, there’s only a 70 percent chance you will graduate from high school – and only a 17 percent chance you will go to college,” Mayor Haslam noted.
That’s why finding ways to improve K-12 education across Tennessee has to be one of the three major challenges the next governor – regardless of who he or she is – tackles immediately after taking office, he continued.
At the same time, the state will have to redouble efforts to eliminate the state’s $1.3 billion budget shortfall, he said, and to create new jobs so the current 10.8 percent unemployment rate can be slashed.
He’d like the chance to tackle those challenges, he said. But to do that, he will need “upwards of $5 million” to fund his campaign.
In November 2004, then-Mayor Bob Corker began running for the US Senate and worked hard to make himself known across the state during the ensuing months, he told SETPAC members.
“And when he took his first poll in January 2006, do you know what he found?” Mayor Haslam – who described himself as a good friend of Corker’s – asked the group.
“Only 15 percent of Tennesseans knew who he was!”
Those poll numbers were a real wake-up call to the Chattanooga mayor, who responded by spending $7 million during the primary campaign and another $8 million in the general, Mayor Haslam said.
“To win, you have to raise money to fund your campaign,” he added. “If you want to win, you have to.”