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Tennessee inches upward in U.S. Chamber of Commerce report

Seven years ago, the Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Leaders & Laggards report was used as a clarion call to change education policies in Tennessee. This year, the report singles out Tennessee for accolades for improvements in students’ academic performance.

The Chamber of Commerce Foundation released its Leaders & Laggards report, which rates states’ K-12 education systems, earlier this week.

In the 2007 version of the report, Tennessee was one of only two states that earned an F in “truth in advertising” because, the Chamber said, the state’s reports on students’ abilities and proficiency measures weren’t lining up with scores on national assessments. That F helped spur a wave of policy changes and the adoption of a new set of standards.

In the most recent report, the state earned an A in truth in advertising. The state also earned an A for the quality of its data and for fiscal responsibility.

Tennessee’s overall academic performance earned it a D, based on students’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. Tennessee students still score below the national average on the test, and low-income and Hispanic students were identified as being particularly behind students in the rest of the country. But the report singles out Tennessee as the fastest-improving state on the NAEP in recent years.

“Tennessee has come a long way with its education reform efforts,” said Catherine Glover, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a press release. “The Tennessee Chamber applauds the leadership of Governor Bill Haslam, our Legislature, and the business community for their ongoing commitment to position Tennessee as a leader in education and workforce development.”

The state earned its lowest scores in access to technology and international competitiveness. The report gives the state a B for its teacher policies and a C in “Return on Investment”—determined by dividing NAEP scores by per pupil spending in different states.

Leaders & Laggards rates states in 11 categories:

  • Academic Achievement (based on NAEP scores)
  • Academic Achievement for Low-income and Minority Students (based on NAEP scores)
  • Return on Investment
  • Truth in Advertising
  • Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (includes scores on Advanced Placement tests and high school graduation rates)
  • 21st Century Teacher Force (includes strategies for identifying and retaining effective teachers)
  • Parental Options (schools with more students enrolled in “schools of choice” and with stronger charter school laws earn higher rankings)
  • Data Quality
  • Technology
  • International Competitiveness
  • Fiscal Responsibility

Its ratings are based on scores on Advanced Placement and NAEP scores and reports on policies from the Data Quality Campaign; the National Council on Teacher Quality; NAEP; the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; and Digital Learning Now!.

The Chamber of Commerce says its results are oriented to “the needs and values of the business community, like international competitiveness, fiscal responsibility, and a respect for markets,” but that it doesn’t aim to promote a particular set of policies. Every state improved its ratings this year.