published Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Bredesen warns parents of ‘reality’ in TCAP scores

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    Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press/ Sep 20, 2010 - Governor Phil Bredesen talks about this year's TCAP scores which will be the first to reflect Tennessee's new, higher standards, resulting from tests administered statewide in April, 2010.

Gov. Phil Bredesen issued a shock warning to parents Monday that the standardized test scores Tennessee students bring home over the next few weeks will be low.

New, higher benchmarks for Tennessee’s standardized assessments mean “harder tests and lower test scores, there’s no getting around that,” Bredesen said.

Now is the time “when the reality of all this starts to sink in,” he said. There will be some “standards anxiety” among parents and students, he predicted.

Bredesen and education officials have toured the state over the last couple of months to get the word out on expected dismal test results from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) students took last spring.

Statewide, records show only 30 percent of sixth-graders, 29 percent of seventh-graders and 26 percent of eighth-graders met or exceeded the new benchmarks on last spring’s TCAP test. On 2009 tests, 91 percent of all elementary and middle school students were scored proficient or advanced in math and reading. Last year, students were advanced, proficient or below proficient; the new standards add a category.

The governor spoke Monday at the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate offices as part of events planned in cooperation with the First to the Top Coalition, an alliance of more than 30 business, community and education organizations. Chattanooga was the last stop in a major city for the governor and the group, which launched the “Expect More, Achieve More” campaign in July, to increase awareness among parents before the scores are released.


New benchmarks and grouping of test scores are intended to give parents a better idea of how their children are performing in Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) testing in grades 3 through 8.

Under new scoring categories, any student who is rated “basic” or “below basic” needs help. Those who are rated “advanced” or “proficient” are on track.

* Advanced: Student demonstrates superior mastery in academic performance, thinking abilities and application of knowledge. Student is significantly prepared for the next level of study.

* Proficient: Student demonstrates mastery in academic performance, thinking abilities and application of knowledge. Student is well prepared for the next level of study.

* Basic: Student demonstrates partial mastery in academic performance, thinking abilities and application of knowledge. Student is minimally prepared for the next level of study.

* Below basic: Student does not demonstrate mastery in academic performance, thinking abilities and application of knowledge. Student is not prepared for the next level of study.

Source: Tennessee Department of Education

The new standards will help students succeed in the long run and counter years of giving the mistaken impression that Tennessee students are well prepared for college and career, Bredesen said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2007 gave Tennessee “an ‘F’ for truth in advertising,” because of the difference between internal test scores and scores on national standardized tests, he said.

“The example that really struck home for me was [that] we gave eighth-graders a test in mathematics and told them that they were 83 to 84 percent proficient,” he said.

“When the same students took the [National Assessment of Educational Progress] test we found the numbers were about ... 23 or 23 percent,” he said.

“We are doing our children no favors by telling them they’re proficient” then let them find out in college or the workplace that they are not, he said.

Hamilton County Superintendent Dr. Jim Scales said officials want to temper parents’ “shock” when the scores are released the week of Oct. 11.

Scales said it is important for parents to understand students did not perform at a lower level, but they were measured against a higher standard.

To answer the new standards, local educators are “working hard on our literacy framework, our math framework making sure that our curriculum is aligned,” he said.

Staff development is critical to meeting the demands of the new standards, he said. Currently, some teachers are ready for the new standards and some need further training, he said.

About 75 percent of Hamilton County’s Race to the Top funding will be directed at staff development over the next four years, he said.

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Tim Webb said rather than dwell on the past “we’re going to roll up our sleeves and go to work” and $527 million in Race to the Top funding will be invested “very heavily” in teacher development.

The changes to proficiency levels are intended to “indicate a mastery of subjects rather than a minimal understanding,” state Department of Education spokeswoman Amanda Maynord Anderson said.

Anderson said the state Report Card will be released in mid-November.

Georgia and other states have also suffered under new No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks.

A higher graduation rate benchmark and the academic benchmark for third- through eighth-grade math caused more schools to miss goals in last spring’s testing than in previous years, the Georgia 2010 Report Card shows. Georgia Department of Education officials warn that next year all the AYP benchmarks increase at once creating a strong likelihood that many more schools will miss federal goals.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter at

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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whatsthefuss said...

We are doing our children no favors by telling them they’re proficient” then let them find out in college or the workplace that they are not, he said. Up popped the devil. Well imagine that. The whole thing has been a BIG FAT LIE and the taxpayer has once again been played for a sucker and left with nothing to show for their wasted hard earned dollars. The real crime has been perpetrated against the children of the public schools. There should be a law against such things but somehow educators interests have found their way into our halls of state lawmaking. And where has Georgia suffered Mr. Benton. The last round of testing required a score of 50 to MEET THE STANDARD. By the way, that is an "F". It sounds much better the way DOE tells it. "Congratulations, your child has passed all parts of the CRCT. They have scored 800 on each section of the test which means your child MEETS THE STANDARD." Now that sounds impressive and makes you want to swell your chest with pride until you finally discover this means your child is an "F" student. This whole no child left behind has left everyone behind except the fat pockets of educators and lawmakers. Shame on each and every one of them. The only problem is none of them have any true pride. Just a desire for next weeks paycheck and that lucrative retirement. The gentleman who wrote this article is no better in my eyes. Keep up the good work everybody. I'll bet your mommas are real proud.

September 21, 2010 at 12:43 a.m.
grandmastaj said...

I hope you're not talking about teachers' "fat pockets." Seriously, have you ever seen a teacher's paycheck, or their retirement? No wonder they stay teaching until they're 80 years old.

September 21, 2010 at 8:01 a.m.
deltenney said...

FOCUS: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic for students; old-fashioned idea but still relevant.

September 21, 2010 at 8:11 a.m.
whatsthefuss said...

grandmasta, Why yes I am talking about teachers. On my side of the planet that receives @ 1/2 a day of sunlight here in Georgia, the average salary for 180 days of work is @50,000 annualy. Along with this comes 12.5 sick days & 5 personal days and Health insurance. With the modest contribution from the educator of 2% of their gross pay for their retirement, we the taxpayer have the privilidge of adding to that 9.25% of that employees pay towards the same retirement fund. The taxpayer also pays to manage their retirement account so the employee has nothing to worry about as to where to invest. The fund is also guaranteed by the state and if that fails the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT picks up the obligation. So please explain to me where an individual can go to invest their money and if there is a loss someone will walk up and replenish their fund? Oh, by the way the average HOUSEHOLD INCOME in the U.S.,{that is usually 2 people working} is $57,000 annually. Most jobs start with 0 vacation days paid, 0 sick or personal days paid, employeer provided health insurance is a thing of the past, and if you would like a retirement perhaps you should start your own IRA because retirement in the private sector went the way of the dinosaur. It is my understanding that teachers receive a higher salary in Georgia than Tennessee, but remember we pay income tax to provide for that.

September 21, 2010 at 8:51 a.m.
ChenBacon said...

Teacher's salaries are not a problem. The major cause of this problem has been created by Teachers in both TN and GA having their hands bound by Administrators in the ways that they can teach. Teachers are bound by an outdated and poorly designed curriculum in all major areas, from which they cannot deviate. One such example is Everyday Math. Below is an actual example from Everyday Math, which is designed to teach math principles and concepts to 3rd graders: Fill in the blanks…

?_ ?_
?_ ?_

Answer: 94 96 105
204 206

Were you able to solve for the correct answers? If not, why would you expect an 8 year old child to solve this problem? This program has been proven to be inefficient and ineffective (

I’m not talking about “dumbing down” education. I’m talking about bettering education, as it has been done in other states. There needs to be a better directed investment in our children. The TELS scholarship money needs to include funds to help improve public education. TELS currently sees only a 65% return on investment after 4 years. ( That would be similar to loaning $1 now, and getting paid back .65 in 4 years. Would you be willing to accept this type of loss with your personal money? We, not parents but as a Community, need to hold the District’s Administrators accountable for the necessary changes, or we make the changes ourselves at election time.

September 21, 2010 at 2:47 p.m.
Musicman375 said...

Focus spending money on the students, not the teachers. Teacher-centered teaching is most often much less effective than student-centered teaching, even though it is more efficient. The problem is it might actually require more teachers on hand to spend more time focusing on the students' indivdual needs for their best chance of actually learning, retaining and demonstrating their knowledge of the curriculum. Of course that means more funding.

The real question with public education is, should the government have any hand in education, in regard to both standards and funding? If the parents were directly responsible for the costs of education within their own communities, would it make the overall education system better or worse? That probably depends on where the school is located. Maybe the gov't should have some hand in funding, i.e, via taxes, but I really don't see how bureaucrats know what's best for the children in terms of standards.

September 21, 2010 at 3:30 p.m.
whatever said...

Focus spending money on the students, not the teachers.

K, what do the students need spending-wise?

The real question with public education is, should the government have any hand in education, in regard to both standards and funding?

I would actually say it's one of the fundamental duties of government to its populace, so yes.

If you believe it isn't, then feel free to change pretty much every single state's constitution. Not to mention the government of most every country in the world.

Maybe the gov't should have some hand in funding, i.e, via taxes, but I really don't see how bureaucrats know what's best for the children in terms of standards.

I don't see how parents necessarily know better. Sorry, but just because you're a parent doesn't mean you know how to teach a child, or even know what a child should know. A lot of parents are plain ignorant. Like it or not.

You want input on the process? Fine, I'm good with that. You want to criticize it? Go for it. Make it better. But please don't tell me that parents would simply be better as if were some incontrovertible rule. A lot of parents are just as hide-bound, ignorant, and stubborn as the most obstructive bureaucrat you can imagine. And no, you can't even offer them any criticism, because "nobody tells me how to raise my child" even when the child is running around and screaming...and it's not a playground but a store or church.

Then there's the special needs children. It's not their fault they were born to parents who can't handle their needs, should we make them suffer?

Now don't get me wrong, I believe there are a lot of problems with the school systems of this country, and probably with many others, but I don't find your particular solution to be more desirable.

September 21, 2010 at 5:32 p.m.
FM_33 said...

Gov. Phil Bredesen thank you for being the best Gov. that the state of Tennessee ever had.

September 21, 2010 at 6:43 p.m.
FM_33 said...

?_ ?_ 105 ?_ ?_

Answer: 94 96 105 204 206

Were you able to solve for the correct answers? If not, why would you expect an 8 year old child to solve this problem? This program has been proven to be inefficient and ineffective ( Username: ChenBacon | On: September 21, 2010 at 2:47 p.m.


ChenBacon that is the class room debate that was on Facebook the other night and that is the correct link.

September 21, 2010 at 6:46 p.m.
FM_33 said...

( Username: ChenBacon | On: September 21, 2010 at 2:47 p.m.

Chen Bacon is a pro hate Phil protester. He has a web site where he shows all the letter's that he sent to the Phil over a period of about a year.

His e-mail is .......

The site also has a link to a blogging site of his at...

While i don't agree with him on most of his points has some stuff worth looking at. Please check it out for your self to see if he has any facts to back up any of his calm's about the record of Gov.Phil Bredesen service here in the state of Tenneesse.

September 21, 2010 at 7:06 p.m.
FM_33 said...

Yes he even like to fight the KFC birds every now and then.

They say that he works for them and throw's the chicken into a bucket and tells the cooks to "fry it like a champ or end up on a postal stamp".

September 21, 2010 at 7:13 p.m.
ChenBacon said...

I don't know who this is:

I am a recent transplant to TN that has 3 daughters in public school, and a spouse that is an active teacher in a Title 1 school. I wrote with an unbiased view of local government leaders. My comment is aimed at the Administrators that knowingly misled the public under the guise that they were helping to develop our children for success. If those individuals want to make an impact, they should begin by apologizing to the public for lying about being successful while knowing that they were grossly failing. I have no hidden agenda, I made my point very clear. Education in this GREAT STATE must change now! This requires a large investment in students, teachers and the schools. Example: Parents in other states do not need to spend $100 or more on supplies for their students, in addition to any other fees. These are states that do not have a lottery, but are capable (yes, due to income tax gasp!) to provide basic supply and needs for students. Why continue to settle for mediocrity? As a parent, I applaud the Governor for proactively addressing the potential concerns that parents and students will see with the new TCAP testing. Shame on those that placed the Governor in that position!

September 21, 2010 at 10:46 p.m.
bapman1 said...

I'm sure the reporting changes are going to shake people up in the short term, but it's really the best thing that could happen. For too long, Tennessee has papered over its challenges by inflating student proficiency rates. In 2007, the Nation’s Report Card (NAEP), a more rigorous national sampling of students, said that just 29% of Tennessee 4th graders were proficient or advanced in math; in contrast, the TCAP said that 89% were proficient/advanced!

Now that reporting is going to better reflect the reality of the situation, we can get on with the business of improving schooling, and Tennessee is moving in the right direction with this correction, Race to the Top, and its value-added assessment system. There's more on this at for those who are interested.

September 21, 2010 at 11:03 p.m.
MetroMax said...

whatsthefuss... The 180 days you use in your example does not even come close. Teachers spend evenings and weekends grading papers, planning, and e-mailing parents. You can easily add another 24 to 30 hours to their work week.

If it is such a gravy train. I guess you working on your degree.

September 21, 2010 at 11:34 p.m.
mslolo said...

Someone mentioned State income tax. Didn't you see in the news that 29 states raised income taxes and it is hurting the people tremendously? Some are fleeing the states. Florida does not have a state income tax;yet, we are doing better on our standardized tests. TN has too many standards so teachers have to just skim along to cover it all. Florida has changed to fewer standards but covers them in depth. Students can really learn them! I could not believe how many TN has. No one could teach all that and have the children learn it. We also only concentrate on Reading and Math in the lower grades. Then Writing in fourth and science in fifth.

October 3, 2010 at 1:48 a.m.
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