School districts across Tennessee are slowly adapting to the state’s new, more difficult tests for high schoolers, based on scores released on Wednesday.
Three out of every four districts saw English proficiency rise this year, while less than half saw the same trend in math in the second year of TNReady, the state’s new standardized test.
The news was better for the students who struggled the most. Nearly every district reduced the percentage of high school students scoring in the bottom category in English, and about two-thirds did the same in math.
The results provided the first look at whether districts are on track, after scores plummeted last year under the new test. This year, Tennessee logged modest gains statewide, though most students continue to fall far below grade level, especially in math.
(Scroll to the bottom of this story to look up how your school district did.)
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen called the results “encouraging,” even as she cautioned that more substantial improvements will take time. Under TNReady, the goal is to provide a more accurate picture of student performance, in alignment with national tests that show Tennessee is on the rise but still trails much of the nation.
“We are committed to holding all of our students to high expectations while supporting them on the path to get there,” she said in a statement.
To do that, the state has raised its academic standards and developed a test that officials say is harder to game.
The high school scores are the first being released this year. Scores for students in grades 3-8, which took TNReady for the first time this year, come out in the fall. Preliminary data shows that, as expected, those scores dropped.
Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson called the latest high school results “sobering” but not surprising. Tennessee’s largest school system saw its passing rates stall. But district officials, in their quest for bright spots, celebrated improvements among students at the lowest performance level.
That’s possible this year because of a change in the state’s accountability system that elevates the importance of raising the scores of students at the bottom.
“A couple of years ago, the only way schools could show growth were those who moved to on track,” said Brad Leon, the district’s chief of strategy and performance management. “I want to give the state credit for changing their accountability system so schools across the state can focus on students who are furthest behind.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Germantown’s school system outperformed all others in the percentage of students who passed TNReady. In high school English, almost 72 percent met course expectations, and more than 55 percent did the same in math. In science, almost 90 percent of Germantown students passed, while 65 percent did in U.S. history. In all subjects, those were the highest scores in the state among 129 districts with high schools.
Ten districts reduced the percent of students performing below course expectations in every individual end-of-course subject:
- Fayette County Public Schools
- Lenoir City Schools
- Roane County Schools
- Rutherford County Schools
- Arlington Community Schools
- Collierville Schools
- Germantown Municipal School District
- Sullivan County Schools
- Sumner County Schools
- Williamson County Schools.
The results are broken down into four performance levels: mastered, on track, approaching, and below.
In the coming weeks, districts will receive final high school TNReady reports to distribute to families and educators. Teacher evaluation data will also be available for educators over the next few weeks.
You can search for your district’s scores below.
Chalkbeat Memphis reporter Laura Faith Kebede contributed to this report.