Assessment Says Tennessee Students The Fastest Improving In The Nation

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Governor Bill Haslam on Thursday announced that Tennessee had the largest academic growth on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of any state, making Tennessee the fastest improving state in the nation. 

The NAEP results also show that Tennessee had the largest growth of any state in a single testing cycle since NAEP started nationwide assessments a decade ago.

“These historic gains are a result of years of hard work by a lot of people across Tennessee: our teachers, students, principals, superintendents, parents, lawmakers, school board members, business leaders, and many others,” Governor Haslam said.  “As a state we’ve come together to make education a top priority.”

The governor was joined for the announcement by former Governor Phil Bredesen, State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, Wilson County Director of Schools Timothy Setterlund, Cicely Woodard, an eighth-grade math teacher at Rose Park Magnet Middle School in Nashville, state legislators, business and community leaders, and students, faculty and staff of West Wilson Middle School in Mt. Juliet where the event was held.

Commonly known as “the nation’s report card,” NAEP assesses students in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. All 50 states have taken NAEP since 2003, and the results are regarded across the country as the best way to compare educational outcomes across states.  Tennessee students’ combined growth on all four tests in 2013 exceeded the growth of all other states.  For data on Tennessee’s NAEP results, visit:

The state improved in overall national ranking in each of the four tests.  For fourth-grade students, Tennessee went from 46th in the nation in math to 37th and from 41st to 31st in reading.  Tennessee also had very strong growth for African-American students, and the state saw gains in overall results while significantly increasing the participation of special education students on the test.

“This administration’s goal has been to be the fastest improving state in the nation by 2015,” Commissioner Huffman said.  “We’ve asked a lot of our teachers and students, and they have delivered; they deserve the thanks for this progress.  Dramatically improving results for kids is hard work, but this is what hard work can do.”

House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said, “This announcement is great news for Tennessee teachers and students. These gains are a testament to our public school professionals, who are doing a great job, despite continued attacks from this administration. With our public schools on the right path, Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner Huffman need to make sure we stay on the path charted by Governor Bredesen. We can’t get side tracked with sending your tax dollars to private schools and taking away local control from our school boards. That is a recipe for undoing these positive gains.”

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.) praised the assessment, saying, “Credit for this remarkable achievement goes to Tennessee’s hard-working teachers, parents, and governor. There couldn’t be any more important news for Tennessee, in terms of the future of our state.”

Senator Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate health committee, added, “The national results deliver the disappointing news that only about a third of fourth graders are proficient in reading and math, and middle school students aren’t doing much better. The best way to help our 50 million children in 100,000 public schools learn what they need to know and be able to do is to fix that responsibility squarely where it belongs—on parents, teachers, communities and states.”

Senator Alexander, who previously served as Secretary of Education and as president of the University of Tennessee, this year introduced a proposal to fix No Child Left Behind that emphasizes state and local decision-making. 

“It puts Washington out of the business of deciding whether local schools are succeeding or failing,” he said. “It rejects the federal mandates that create a national school board, prohibiting the Education Secretary from prescribing standards or accountability systems for states.”

Senator Alexander introduced the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act” with senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), Pat Roberts (R-Ks.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Mark Kirk (R-Il.).

Tennessee has also seen three years of continuous growth on its state assessments, also known as the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP).  Since 2010, 91,000 more students are on grade level in math, and 52,000 more students are on grade level in science.

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