Tennessee students show steady progress in 2013

Tennessee students show steady progress in 2013

June 28th, 2013 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Gov. Bill Haslam laughs in this file photo.

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District-by-district results will be released in July.

Document: 2012-13 TCAP comparison

Document: 2012-13 TCAP achievement gap

Document: 2012-13 TCAP subject results

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee students in 2013 continued making strides on their Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests, marking three years of steady progress since tougher course requirements and testing were introduced nearly four years ago, state officials announced Thursday.

"I am grateful to our students and teachers for rising to the challenge of higher standards and to parents who are investing in their children's education," said Gov. Bill Haslam, who joined Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman in a news conference to unveil academic year 2012-13 results.

Haslam called it "encouraging that we continue to make gains in education, and we are reminded that we have a lot of work ahead of us in building a strong Tennessee workforce for the future."

The TCAP tests are given to students in grades 3-8, while high schoolers are given end-of-course exams.

TCAP results showed that, for the first time since more rigorous standards went into effect, more than half of students in grades 3-8 achieved grade level in every tested TCAP achievement subject.

The students reached higher levels of proficiency on 22 of 24 tested subjects over 2012 results.

For high school students, there was strong growth, officials said, in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas over last year with proficiency percentages up by 8.7 percent in Algebra II, 6.4 points in biology and 5 points in Algebra I.

More than half of high school students tested proficient or advanced in five of seven end-of-course subjects tested.

But by comparison, increases in high school proficiency rates weren't near as high for English I and III, increasing by two percent. And in English II, they actually moved backward by about one percentage point, the state says.

"We haven't done enough in providing high-quality professional development for teachers in reading, and that's been a huge point of emphasis for this summer and for the coming year," Huffman said.

While top officials' mood was celebratory on Thursday, they expect the scores to fall again in the 2013-2014 academic year when the state implements the new Common Core standards, an even more rigorous system of testing developed by states, including Tennessee.

Dr. Gary Nixon, executive director of the State Board of Education, said "I'm pleased with the results and the growth."

He noted that in 2008 Tennessee implemented the Diploma Project that "raised the standards, the rigor of all the elementary and high school courses. We anticipated the longer students were in these new upgraded courses and grades, the better they would be over time."

State Senate Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson, R-Hixson, who also attended the news conference, said this year's tests showed "positive results."

He noted that despite "some of the criticism that has been levied at all the reform efforts ... it's making a difference -- a positive difference."

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or asher@timesfreepress.com.