published Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Reading scores dip lower among Tennessee middle school students

  • photo
    TCAP tests are stacked on a teacher’s desk.
    Photo by Allison Kwesell

NASHVILLE – Tennessee high school students showed strong improvements in most high school subjects but scores for children in grades 3-8 sometimes flattened and reading even showed a slight dip in several grades on reading.

"I will emphasize: The progress we've made is still very very significant, but we'll use the data to see how we can do better," Gov. Bill Haslam said as he and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman released 2013-14 results on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP).

The tests are taken by students in grades 3-8 and also include end-of-course exams for high school students.

The governor and his education commissioner largely focused on the high school results where students made gains on five of seven tests.

In Algebra II, for example, students rated as proficient or advanced grew nearly 6 percentage points over last year and more than 17 percentage points since the state began testing students three years ago. And proficiency among students taking English II gained 4 percentage points.

Those taking English I grew by 3 percentage points. But students taking English III saw a slight decrease, going from 39.6 percent rated as proficient or advanced to 38.1 percent.

Tennessee moved in 2010 to more rigorous class work standards and has seen steady progress since. Last year, Tennessee fourth and eighth graders made the fastest gains among any other state on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Haslam and Huffman said they will use the data to ascertain what happened in grades 3, 5, 6 and 8. They said some of the problem stem from changes made in teaching to reflect the new Common Core standards.

But the current TCAP tests, which are multiple choice, do not give students much chance to display critical thinking skills, writing and other new areas of emphasis, they said.

Haslam said "systemic change over time is hard work, but we continue to see evience that shows our teachers' efforts are paying off," Haslam said, noting teachers this past school year fully implemented the state's new standards in math and English.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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