Report: Tennessee student progress largely stagnates on test

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee students largely stagnated on a 2019 national test compared to 2017, except for a rebound in fourth grade math after a 2017 decrease, state officials said.

Tennessee’s Department of Education says the Nation’s 2019 Report Card released Wednesday shows no other statistical gains compared to 2017.

Fourth and eighth graders take the National Assessment of Educational Progress every two years in reading and math.

State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn says Tennessee made tremendous gains in math and reading between 2011 and 2013, but proficiency has essentially stagnated since.

“It’s difficult to see that only 35% of 4th graders in Tennessee can read with proficiency,” Schwinn said in a news release. “That said, teachers and students in this state have already proven that they have what it takes to make drastic improvements over a short period of time, and the department will support districts to make that happen again.”

State officials say new results show widening achievement gaps between white students and those who are disabled, economically disadvantaged, of a different race or English language learners.


“Occasionally and often times it’s really challenging,” Schwinn said. “Because you’re not going to see massive levels of growth every two years. It’s a big system.”

Looking further into the report, the numbers are trending in the right direction for Shelby County Schools.

“Our educators really deserve the credit for leading this effort in the classroom,” Jerica Phillips, spokesperson for SCS, said. “And even though NAEP is not used for accountability purposes, it gives us the opportunity to how the instruction in Shelby County Schools compares.”

Nationally, eighth graders lagged in math and reading, while fourth graders improved slightly in reading. There were declines among fourth graders in math.

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education, an education advocacy group known as SCORE, noted Tennessee’s performance amid declines elsewhere in the country, but also called for a sense of urgency to make improvements.

“Clearly, much of the work by Tennessee teachers and policymakers is helping students achieve more,” SCORE President David Mansouri said in a news release. “But improvement is slower than we want, and we are not yet serving all students well.”

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