Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said Tennessee students made gains in the majority of the state’s 31 grade and subject-level tests.
The biggest increases seen in the 2013-2014 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) results were in high school, where students made gains on five of seven high school tests. The 2014 results mark the second year of strong growth in a row at the high school level.
His office said, "Since Haslam took office, Tennessee students have made significant and sustained growth in academic achievement. More than 100,000 additional students are on grade level in math, and an additional 57,000 students are at or above grade level in science."
“Systemic change over time is hard work, but we continue to see evidence that shows our teachers’ efforts are paying off,” Governor Haslam said. “The ultimate goal of our work is to send more students out of high school with higher skill levels, and today’s results show that we are making good progress.”
Tennessee teachers fully implemented the state’s new standards in math and English this year, and student scores held steady in grades 3-8, with slight gains in most areas. This year’s results showed improvement in math and science areas, with biology and algebra proficiency rates continuing to rise. In 2011 only 31 percent of Algebra II students were on grade level, and this year nearly 50 percent – more than 13,000 additional Tennessee students than in 2011 – reached that mark.
High school English scores grew considerably over last year’s results in English I and English II. The students on grade level in English II increased nearly 4 percent this year, officials said.
Additionally, achievement gaps for minority students narrowed in math and reading at both the high school and 3-8 levels.
Results continue to show the need for improvement in reading. The department trained 18,000 teachers this year on the state’s standards. Another 5,000 educators participated last year in reading courses offered by the department and its regional network of offices, Centers of Regional Excellence (CORE), and teachers across the state will have access to those classes again this year.
“The state assessment is not the only barometer, but it is an important way of looking at our work,” Commissioner Huffman said. “What it shows is that we are teaching our students to read more closely and think more critically than ever before.”
Tennessee students will continue to take TCAP during the 2014-15 school year. Complete statewide results for the 2013-14 TCAP are available at http://tn.gov/education/data/tcap_2014.shtml.
Officials of the Professional Educators of Tennessee said, "Data from TCAP should continue to be analyzed and evaluated. It is unclear from a cursory glance of results exactly what this means to Tennessee educators.
"We are pleased to see the gains in High School Math. That is a good sign. We must sustain that effort, and it bodes well for STEM programs in our state."
J.C. Bowman, executive director, said, "It is clear we need to carefully consider the consequences of making a one-time standardized test the be-all, end-all for our students and educators" according to
He added, "some evidence suggests improvements in student performance. But credit should also be given to school district policies and programs, as well as to educators focused on test-based accountability.
"While performance is improving, the contribution of high-stakes testing to that effort remains unclear. It is critical we use data to improve instruction — but the verdict on the value of assessments this year is mixed"
"This year data provides general information about student performance, but lacks the nuance to provide any real instructional guidance for educators. Most educators believe TCAP or any state assessment should be used as a diagnostic tool, rather than as a punitive measure."
The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) said, "Today Tennessee educators, policymakers, and parents received more detailed information to help decide where to focus our efforts in the year ahead so our students can continue to be national leaders in academic achievement gains, as they were on the 2013 Nation’s Report Card.
"As Tennessee’s teachers have risen to the challenge of higher expectations in the classroom and transitions in education policy, TCAP gains over the past four years show their hard work is delivering results. This year, for example, Tennessee students continued to make outstanding progress in high school mathematics. The fastest growing industries in Tennessee require a solid knowledge in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, and this academic improvement means more students will be ready for college and the workforce.
"The results also make clear that the state must bear down on helping students make progress in reading, particularly in elementary school. In recent focus groups SCORE conducted across the state, elementary educators said they are seeing their students make advances in reading. We look forward to digging deeper into the statewide results, and the district results that will be released in the coming weeks, to better understand the difference between what educators see in the classroom and the TCAP numbers.
"Today’s results in math and reading/English provide important and actionable information but come with an asterisk because the current assessments are not able to completely measure the skills emphasized by Tennessee’s standards, which are now fully implemented. Tennessee educators across the state have said in SCORE’s focus groups and to policymakers that simply multiple-choice assessments do not give students an opportunity to truly show what they know. Tennessee teachers and students critically need an assessment that offers interactive questions, short response items, and extended written response. A better, aligned assessment will give teachers, parents, and ultimately students more precise information about our academic progress."