Tennessee is one of the most improved states on a national exam of student performance, according to a new federal report released today.
Officials say Tennessee, Hawaii and the District of Columbia saw the most growth on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), an independent research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, released the results today.
NAEP is considered by many experts one of the best comparative measures of student achievement because the test, given to a random sample of students, is common across all 50 states. It's more useful in national comparisons than state assessments, which vary among the states.
On a call with reporters Wednesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan congratulated Tennessee, Hawaii and D.C. for posting big gains on NAEP. Nationally, Duncan said other states saw "absolutely encouraging, but modest" improvement on this year's test, which tested fourth- and eighth-grade students in reading and math. He said educational reforms, heightened investments in early childhood education and focus on quality teachers are helping push scores up.
"These states and D.C. have taken on very very difficult and controversial hard work," he said. "None of these things are easy, but it sure looks like it's having a real impact in improved student achievment."
In an effort to overhaul Tennessee's traditionally poor performance, officials here have drastically altered public education in the last several years, changing everything from teacher tenure rules to classroom teaching standards along the way.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman celebrated the results at an event in Mt. Juliet today.
Tennessee students had the largest academic growth of any state in the country on national assessment tests, making the state the fastest improving in the nation, Haslam said.
Haslam called Tennessee' progress on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Program "extraordinary" during a presentation at West Wilson Middle School.
For more on this story, read Friday's Times Free Press.