2020-21 Spring TCAP State-Level Results Show Declines Across The State

Monday, August 2, 2021

Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Education on Monday released the 2020-21 Spring Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program state-level results. These results include exams in English Language Arts, mathematics, science and social studies.   

State-level test results from the 2020-21 Spring TCAP assessments show that pandemic-related disruptions to education led to declines in student academic proficiency in the state, across all subjects and grade bands, as expected. These declines were mitigated as a direct result of the hard work of our educators.  

During the January 2021 Special Legislative Session, Public Chapter 2 removed negative consequences associated with accountability for districts and schools whose district-wide TCAP participation rate was 80 percent or higher. On Tuesday, July 27, the department shared that 100 percent of districts met the 80 percent participation rate, with 80 percent of districts having met the federal 95 percent participation rate. More than two million TCAP tests were administered this year to approximately 750,000 students, providing families and schools systems access to information that will help drive strategic decision-making for students. 

“These results show that COVID-19 has disrupted learning in every school district in Tennessee,” said Governor Lee. “We’re grateful to the dedication of our educators and districts who worked to mitigate this loss over the past year, and we’re committed to implementing long-term strategies and investments to get our students back on track.”   

"Since last school year, districts, schools, educators, and families have worked tirelessly to adapt to this new reality, keep children on pace with academic expectations, and are ready to start the new school year strong. Now is the time for our state to come together to support our students,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “While this is difficult data to review knowing that there are students behind each percent listed, we have the courage and conviction to meet this moment, to build on statewide momentum, and to accelerate student achievement. I am confident that our districts are equipped with the right tools to help our students meet grade-level expectations in the upcoming school year, and the department is committed to continue making strategic investments to increase outcomes for years to come. We know what is possible for education in our state, and Tennessee will continue to focus on what is best for all students.” 

Officials said these results highlight the importance of addressing the needs of students and operating with a sense of urgency and optimism about what the districts, schools, educators, families and students can accomplish. Access an overview of the state-level results with comparisons by student group and grade level here and additional information here

TCAP Results 

Students receive a TCAP performance label of Mastered, On Track, Approaching or Below. Performance levels of Mastered or On Track indicate general grade level performance on the assessment. 

2021 TCAP 3–8 Mathematics Results 

Subject

Grade

Below Grade Level

Approaching Grade Level

Meets Grade Level (On Track)

Mastered Grade Level

Mathematics

3

32%

36%

22%

10%

 

4

36%

30%

27%

7%

 

5

37%

32%

20%

11%

 

6

42%

31%

23%

4%

 

7

34%

42%

19%

5%

 

8

47%

29%

19%

5%

 

8 (Advanced)

11%

21%

36%

32%

 

2021 TCAP 3-8 ELA Results 

Subject

Grade

Below Grade Level

Approaching Grade Level

Meets Grade Level (On Track)

Mastered Grade Level

Reading

3

32%

36%

22%

10%

 

4

18%

49%

31%

2%

 

5

30%

41%

27%

2%

 

6

19%

54%

25%

2%

 

7

21%

53%

24%

2%

 

8

23%

54%

22%

1%

 

2021 TCAP Science Results 

Subject

Below Grade Level

Approaching Grade Level

Meets Grade Level (On Track)

Mastered Grade Level

Elementary

25%

36%

32%

7%

Middle

23%

41%

31%

5%

High

25%

34%

36%

5%


 

The state-level results of the 2020-21 spring TCAP assessments reflect expected declines as a result of disruptions due to COVID-19. Specifically, the state-level results from this past spring’s test administration found:  

Overall: 

o    Tennessee data shows decreases in students scoring Mastered and On Track.   

o    Tennessee data shows increases in students scoring Below.  

o    The most negative impacts were noted for economically disadvantaged students, urban/suburban students, English Learners, and students of color. 

ELA: 

o    Overall English Language Arts proficiency dropped 5 points from 2019.  

o    3 in 10 Tennessee students are meeting grade level expectations in ELA.  

§  1 in 7 economically disadvantaged students is meeting grade level expectations in ELA.  

§  ELA proficiency rates dropped 4 - 6 points across racial and ethnic lines.   

o    2nd & 3rd grades scores showed large increases to students scoring Below  

§  68 percent of 2nd graders scored Below (half of 2nd grade students participated in this optional assessment) 

§  47 percent of 3rd graders scored Below  

§  Students scoring at Below in 2nd and 3rd grades are typically those who are not able to read proficiently. 

Math: 

o    1 in 4 Tennessee students is on grade level in math. 

§  1 in 10 economically disadvantaged students is meeting grade level expectations.  

§  Black students were most impacted in math, with 67 percent scoring Below and 9 percent meeting grade level expectations. 

§  Hispanic and Asian students had 12 and 13 percentage point declines, respectively, from 2019.  

§  White students experienced an 11-percentage point decline overall from 2019.  

o    Overall 3rd grade proficiency declined from 44 percent in 2019 to 31 percent in 2021, while 4th grade proficiency declined from 46 percent in 2019 to 34 percent in 2021. 

o    The greatest drops across subject areas were understanding and using mathematical notation to describe quantitative relationships and situations.  

Science: 

o    Proficiency rates dropped by a third in science, with only 38% of Tennessee students demonstrating proficiency.  

o     Drops in science were larger in science than in any other subject area.  

Social Studies: 

o    This data saw fewer declines than other content areas and maintains performance from statewide increases that began in 2018, when standards were updated.  

o    While proficiency dropped by 4 points in middle school, it increased 4 points in high school.  

Due to continued challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as changes in mode of instruction and scheduling, the results from the 2020-21 TCAP administration are distinct from previous years. 

To help Tennessee families and students understand their TCAP results, the department’s free, online resource, TCAP Family Portal, is available and provides access to test results from this year. The portal also includes test history features allowing families to track progress over time, TCAP scale scores and performance levels by subject, parent guides and resources, and individualized recommendations for improvements. Families can access this resource by registering at familyreport.tnedu.gov.   

The portal was created in direct response to parent and stakeholder feedback, and information in the portal is useful for families engaging in conversations with educators about their child’s academic progress. Families of students that tested in spring 2021 can access student data now for TCAP and Aug. 20 for TCAP-Alternate assessments. Districts will continue to provide paper score reports to families. 

To support districts and schools experiencing various learning disruptions, the department offered multiple flexibilities and supports to districts so they could make the best assessment plans to fit their needs. These flexibilities included the expanded use of off-site testing locations, flexibility for local testing schedules, and guidance on medical exemptions for COVID-impact students. 

In January 2021, Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly convened a special legislative session on education, which addressed urgent issues facing Tennessee students and schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the special legislative session passed legislation on accountability, learning loss, literacy, and teacher pay. The Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act established summer learning loss bridge camps for elementary students to help them recover learning loss and accelerate their achievement.    

In alignment with the Best for All strategic plan, the department recognized the impending impact the global pandemic would have on K-12 education in Tennessee and has proactively and strategically committed investments to prioritize meeting the needs of all Tennessee students through the state’s ARP ESSER plan, which lays out the state’s spending strategy for its portion of federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus funding to benefit K-12 education in Tennessee. Specifically, the state plan highlights  combatting existing gaps in student achievement and opportunity, addressing the needs of rural communities, improving early literacy, investing in a statewide tutoring corps, and accelerating student academic achievement across the state. 

Additionally, the department provides formative assessments aligned to Tennessee Academic Standards at no cost to districts. These department-created assessments support our districts and schools in measuring how students are approaching grade-level expectations. In August 2020, the department launched a new statewide formative assessment platform, Schoolnet, which has already administered over 377,000 tests, and has deployed an item bank, Checkpoint exams, and full-length Mock Interim assessments, all aligned to our state standards and summative TCAP. Districts that utilized the department’s free, formative assessment tools showed higher success rates.  

District and school leaders, statewide elected officials, and education stakeholders commented on the importance of annual assessments and how Tennesseans need to come together to support our students. 

“Annual assessments are essential and provide robust data for Dickson County Schools’ educators, community partners and our state as a whole to deliver the right support to the right students,” said Danny Weeks, director of Schools, Dickson County Schools. “This is a profound moment in time for our district and state as we move with a calm sense of urgency to ensure all of our students not just get back on track but are propelled forward in academic achievement.”  

“What these numbers prove more than anything is that Tennessee was wise to address learning loss as a result of the pandemic earlier this year in special session,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally. “Our high participation rate will give us the data we need to keep Tennessee on the road to advancement. We have made marked improvements in the last decade across the board. The pandemic may have slowed our progress marginally but I am grateful that due to decisive action and hard work we will be back on our path of success very soon.”  

“Given the unprecedented learning disruption that occurred during the 2020-21 school year, it will be important for district and school staff to carefully analyze TCAP data for our students and determine their individual needs,” said Steve Starnes, director of Schools, Greeneville City Schools. “State assessment data along with local formative assessment data will provide the necessary information we need to best allocate resources and supports to address next steps in student learning. Greeneville City Schools’ educators are committed to delivering the instruction students need to continue to learn at the highest levels.”  

“We knew we faced some extreme challenges during this past school year, which not only put stress on our students and educators but also our high achievement goals,” said Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton. “While today’s sobering news has been expected by many of us, we are still profoundly affected by the extent and depth of the decline. I am very thankful we were visionary in starting the learning loss program this summer before receiving these test scores. However, our focus must continue to be on reading, writing, and arithmetic, and students must be in the classroom. If school systems can not meet the most basic requirement of being open, then parents need other options like school choice.”  

“Now more than ever, our state needs a forward-thinking mindset when it comes to our students and ensuring we are all part of the solution leading to the academic success of our students,” said Nancy Dishner, president and CEO, Niswonger Foundation. “We all need to ask how we can be of help. We can measurably impact the trajectory of a student as a tutor or mentor in our local community. When we look back in Tennessee history, this will be the moment when Tennesseans from all backgrounds and industries came forward to help students thrive in school, work, and life.”

"I believe that annual reviews of student academic strengths and needs allows our teachers and families to know the best ways to help students leap ahead in learning,” said Dr. Jeanne Barker, director of Schools, Lenoir City Schools. “I am looking forward to applying the information learned from the assessments as we maximize learning for every student this coming year."  

“The Tennessee General Assembly’s top priority in education is each student," said House Education Administration Committee Chairman Mark White. "Parents, teachers, school leaders, facilities, testing and funding all play a part in supporting the education of our children. The importance of testing has revealed the learning loss we anticipated due to the pandemic this past year. Knowing that our Education System would be severely challenged due to the pandemic, we took bold action in January 2021 and put in place legislation to address the learning loss due to school closures and students learning in a hybrid and virtual world. Our students and teachers returned to ‘in-person’ learning this summer to address this loss. With the new school year rapidly approaching, we are fully committed that our students are 100 percent in classrooms for in-person learning! Their future and our state’s future is at stake.”  

“Every Tennessee business’ most valuable asset is its workforce to drive productivity, innovation, and economic prosperity," said Bradley Jackson, president and CEO, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "Workforce development starts in Tennessee K-12 schools, and it's our collective responsibility to prepare students for career readiness. The statewide TCAP results are a call to action for all businesses, regardless of size, to meaningfully get involved in the academic achievement and career readiness of students in their local school district.”  

“Haywood County Schools will use this essential, baseline TCAP data to continue making student-centered decisions for a supportive learning environment as our team and community want to see our students prosper inside and outside the classroom,” said Joey Hassell, director of Schools, Haywood County Schools. “As a state, we must seize this moment to exemplify the resiliency of our education systems and support our faculty and staff who work relentlessly to help our students achieve.”  

"Our bold plan providing interventions for struggling students, such as the implementation of a rigorous and well-funded 3rd grade reading retention policy, summer learning camps, and ongoing year-round tutoring are already working,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey. “Thanks to our aggressive remediation plan passed in January, the decline in academic gains due to COVID-19 were not as dramatic as some experts had anticipated."  

“United Way is proud but not surprised that TN has one of the highest participation rates in the country for TCAP, and this data will help us determine what support children and youth need to strengthen their academic achievement,” said Mary Graham, president of United Ways of Tennessee. “We are excited to continue to partner with the TN Department of Education to encourage innovative, multi-sector supports for our students. This is a call to action for afterschool programs, nonprofits, employers, volunteers and other stakeholders in our communities to work together creatively for our kids.”  

“Clinton City Schools was fortunate to offer a full year of in-person instruction during the 2020-21 school year," said Kelly Johnson, director of Schools, Clinton City Schools. "However, this was not without significant challenges that impact academic performance. In our system of 980 students, we had 7,689 cumulative days of missed in-person instruction due to student quarantines. With a TN Ready participation rate of 99.6 percent in our district, we feel confident that these scores give us an indication of where we are, and we can use this data to create a robust instructional response plan. However, this data does not tell us the positive impact that reopening schools had on the social/emotional aspects of our students. As a state, we must all recognize what Tennessee public schools accomplished last year given the circumstances. The complete recovery will take time. However, I feel confident that with the support of our stakeholders, we will continue to close learning gaps while offering well-rounded educational programming for our students."  

“Our teachers have done extraordinary work and their efforts have kept many children from falling further behind,” said House Education Instruction Committee Chairlady Debra Moody. “Our state, especially urban communities, cannot afford to lose another generation of students. Tennessee will continue to take aggressive measures to stem that tide, but this is not just a short-term, pandemic-driven issue—it is part of a long-term systemic problem. Parents, your engagement in your children’s education is imperative. Together, we should prepare our Tennessee students to be independent thinkers and responsible citizens. As policymakers, our efforts will take on greater significance this year to keep public education a top priority as we move forward.”  

“This past school year, COVID-19 significantly impacted the way in which we experience daily life," said Eddie Pruett, director of Schools, Gibson County Special School District. "It was a difficult time for everyone involved. However, we were able to have school in person and over 97 percent of our student population was able to take TNReady exams. This will give us important information on our students and give additional data to help meet the academic needs for all of our students. We know that last year did not provide the perfect learning environment for all students to excel. However, we want parents to remember that our students are so much more than a number. This past school year, our students learned how to be more independent, how to persevere, and learned that sometimes we must adjust to changes and adapt to the unknown. We know that the staff in our schools will meet students where they are this year and provide high quality instruction to ensure gaps are minimized and students are equipped for a mentally healthy, prosperous, and successful future.”  

“Our students are tomorrow’s leaders and workforce," said Dr. Marlon King, director of Schools, Jackson Madison County School System. "Amid the most challenging times in education, it is a social and economic imperative for our state and community to wrap its arms around our students and teachers. Annual statewide assessments continue to provide all education stakeholders with the necessary data to tailor support and align resources to accelerate student learning.”  

“First, we must recognize and respect the challenges that students and teachers have faced over the last school year,” said Kristy Brown, director of Schools, Jackson County Schools. “With that in mind, having TCAP data is especially important to determine where kids are academically. Now, it is time for Tennessee and local school districts to invest resources to support our educators and accelerate learning for all students.”  

"While we were aware of the state’s achievement gaps, these results unfortunately confirm the devastating impact the pandemic has had on the education and growth of so many of our students, especially those students who were already most at risk of falling behind. Now, we must quickly rally together to help all students and schools succeed,” said Victor Evans, executive director, TennesseeCAN. “TennesseeCAN will continue to provide support, guidance and encouragement because nothing is more important to the future of our state than ensuring every child has the opportunity for a high-quality education, rapid recovery from learning loss, and a lifetime of success."  

“The Tennessee PTA recognizes the value of high-quality assessments and how they provide essential information to parents, teachers and school leaders about the growth and achievement of their students,” said Dwight Hunter, president, Tennessee PTA. “However, a test should be one of the multiple tools that are used in a comprehensive assessment system to evaluate and assess student growth and learning to ensure they continue moving forward and accelerating their achievement.”

TCAP includes summative assessments for English language arts, math, science, and social studies for grades 3-8, high school end-of-course (EOC) exams in English I and II, Algebra I and II, Geometry, Integrated Math I, II, and III; Biology, and U.S. History. TCAP also includes the TCAP-Alternate Assessment for students with disabilities, and the optional TCAP Grade 2 Assessment. 

These analyses do not include the results of TCAP-Alt tests, which are assessments for students with the most significant learning disabilities. To learn more about the state’s assessment program, visit the department’s State Assessment webpage



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