by Candice McQueen, Tennessee Commissioner of Education
At the department, we believe that all means all: All students deserve high-quality instruction; all students can benefit from intervention and enrichment; and all students can graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills to embark upon their chosen path in life. As we review the results from the 2017 TNReady exam, we see how this focus on all students is leading to growth among our historically underserved populations: students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged students, and Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.
State assessments like TNReady are important for a variety of reasons, but one key role they play is in ensuring that all of our student groups are served well. TNReady helps us to identify gaps in performance so we can address those, and it supports accountability for the performance of every child. This transparency helps keep us focused on serving all students while honestly assessing access issues. The results also show us areas where students’ performance is especially encouraging so we can continue on that path and seek to scale with more students.
Grades 3-8: First Year Results
Earlier this month, we shared the statewide results for the first year of TNReady in grades 3-8. Just as we did with high school last year, these TNReady scores set a new baseline, so students’ overall performance cannot be compared to how they scored on the old TCAP in grades 3-8. The statewide outcomes showed that the majority of our historically underserved student groups did not perform as well as the general student population. However, it also showed that achievement gaps were not as large as they had been previously on TCAP.
Because TNReady is aligned to our standards—and cannot be gamed—we believe if all students receive strong daily instruction, they will be successful. And we fully believe it is possible for every student to do well on the test.
High School: Year Two Results
Two years ago, Tennessee high school students set a new baseline for growth with their first year of TNReady End-of-Course (EOC) results. This past year’s results for TNReady EOCs show Tennessee high school students improved their performance as they rose to meet higher academic expectations.
In addition to the overall growth, there was a notable improvement by students who represent our historically underserved populations, exemplifying our belief that all students are capable of meeting high standards. In high school science, Native American students outpaced the larger student population, and in high school math, the gap between students with disabilities and all students also narrowed. In most cases, student groups improved their performance, and for EOC exams in English, all student groups improved on TNReady.
While we often focus on those top two performance levels—on track and mastered—students showed positive movement across all four categories: below, approaching, on track, and mastered.
In every subject, we reduced the percentage of students who scored at below, the lowest achievement level. This positive movement is particularly true for our student groups. This year’s results show students who are part of our historically underserved student groups often outpaced the “all students” category in advancing from the lowest performance level to approaching.
What is even more promising is that the percentage of students with disabilities scoring at below decreased in every individual content area and fell by nearly 19 percentage points in English I. Our students with disabilities showed across-the-board growth in every subject area and are proving what is possible when you hold all students to high expectations.
We know there are still gaps—often large gaps—between the performance of students in our historically underserved populations and the larger student body. All of us must work urgently to address those. One way we’ll make sure we do is by continuing to hold a high bar, because as our high school results show, all of our students are capable of meeting high expectations.
So, while we still have plenty of room to grow as we work to ensure all students are on track, we want to also highlight the positive student growth we are seeing across the performance levels. Our focus on all students and on strong instruction paired with targeted intervention is working, and we will continue to encourage and support our educators as they commit to this work every day.