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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
As Governor Bill Lee, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) and Republican lawmakers pat themselves on the back for a job well done, results from the 2021-2022 TCAP assessments show that almost two thirds of students are below grade level in almost every category for which the state conducts testing.
In a press release TDOE states that “elementary students significantly improved their English Language Arts (ELA) scores and are performing at a level similar to pre-pandemic years.” TDOE also says that all Tennessee students improved their math performance and that “every student group showed an increase in proficiency.”
While technically true, pre-pandemic levels of proficiency in the state were nothing to brag about.
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Third grade ELA proficiency rates were 36.9% in 2019 and are now 35.7%. Even more alarming is taking a look at ELA scores for high school students. Less than half of these students are at grade level when adding up Exceeded and Met percentages, both before the pandemic and now.
Less than 50% of third grade students met/exceeded grade level in math in 2019, that number dipped to 31% in 2021 and has risen to 36% this year. For high school, the picture is even bleaker. After having taken three years of high school math, only 26% of students met/exceeded grade level before COVID. In 2021, that number dropped to just 18% and is now up to 25%. That means only a quarter of students who are nearing the end of their high school years are demonstrating math proficiency.
In response to the TCAP scores, Governor Bill Lee said, “I commend Tennessee teachers for their work to help students make academic gains, close achievement gaps and prepare students for life beyond the classroom.”
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said she was “incredibly proud” to share the assessment results. “Tennessee’s gains to meet or exceed pre-pandemic proficiency levels were hard-earned, and now is the time to ensure we continue the policies, practices and programs that are supporting academic achievement,” she said.
Lt. Governor Randy McNally attributed the “improvement” in scores to the leadership of Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly. “Now that the COVID disruption is behind us, we must focus on recapturing the gains that made Tennessee one of the most improved states in the nation prior to the emergence of the pandemic, “ he said. “There is still much work left to do but I am grateful to all that made this recovery possible on behalf of Tennessee’s students.”
Speaker Cameron Sexton thanked educators for “changing the academic trajectories of our students” and echoed McNally’s sentiments. “The resources and programs initiated by Gov. Lee, and supported by the Department of Education, and the General Assembly have closed gaps in statewide reading proficiency rates.”
“It is very encouraging to see our TCAP scores recover to pre-pandemic levels,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson.
Senate Education Chairman Jon Lundberg said, “Test scores are one of many important metrics to gauge student success. I will continue to partner with all stakeholders in our children’s education to ensure students receive a quality education that equips them with the skills to get a quality job and provide for their future families.”
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.