Tennessee's high school students improved in every subject area on the state's year-end standardized assessment, although math scores were mostly flat over last year's results.
Tennessee's TNReady high school end-of-course results — a year-end test given to grades 9-11 students — show improvements in English, math, history and science.
Here are the results:
- In English, 34.3 percent of students were on track or mastered the subject, up from 30.4 percent in 2015-2016.
- In all math courses, 21.5 percent performed on track or mastered the subject, up from 20.8 percent last year.
- For U.S. history, 30.8 percent of students score on track or higher, up from 29.9 percent.
- And in science, 51 percent score proficient or higher, up from 48.9 percent last year, although the science test was taken under a different, less rigorous test.
"In all subject areas, thousands more students are on level," Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said.
In addition, McQueen said the state also saw a decrease in those scoring at the bottom.
And the state was able to show improvements, especially in English, among its underserved students, including black, Hispanic, Native American, English-learning and those with disabilities.
The results bode well for future years, McQueen said.
"We want to be clear, we still have work to do across every single one of our student groups," she said. "While we have seen some gains in some significant places ... we still need to accelerate progress."
A tougher test and flat math scores
The state switched to the TNReady test two years ago and reworked scoring so it is more rigorous in math, reading and history. The state's goal was to align scoring closely with the national ACT college readiness test.
"The rigor we have in the standards and the assessment that is aligned to that has greater depth of expectations," McQueen said.
Science tests, however, are tested under the TCAP test, not TNReady, but that is expected to change in the 2018-19 school year.
Nakia Towns, education department assistant commissioner of data and research, said the mostly flat proficiency growth in math is likely attributed to the change to the TNReady test and a removal of calculators during the test.
Districts were provided plenty of resources to adjust in the English test, but educators had less preparation for the math changes, Towns said.
"Math is where we have seen the biggest transition with TNReady," Towns said. "We are going to look at how we can really support teachers with (math) assessment literacy."
Praise from state leaders for improvements
State officials applauded the Tennessee education department and teachers for the uptick in scores.
“It’s important to know that students have made progress, but TNReady has value beyond measuring what happened last year,” said Teresa Wasson, a spokeswoman for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, a Tennessee nonprofit organization that advocates for educational improvements.
It's the hard work of teachers that made a difference, said Wasson.
"We’re seeing academic gains because Tennessee teachers analyzed the results from the first year of TNReady to find opportunities to change lessons for the following school year so more students could develop real understanding of the subject," she said.
Tennessee State Board of Education Chair Fielding Rolston said that the improvements are an encouraging sign for the state.
“With a new, rigorous assessment, Tennessee high school students have shown they are capable of meeting higher expectations,” Rolston said. “In particular, the science data reflects the historic growth we saw on the the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) assessment.”
More TNReady scores to be released
Grades 3-8 testing is expected to be released by the Tennessee Department of Education sometime in the fall.
District-by-district TNReady results aren't available, and the education department plans to send year-end high school test data to district's in the coming weeks.
The first year's test was mired with problems, including the cancellation of grades 3-8 tests statewide. High school year-end scores were available statewide as the test was able to be administered.
In its second year of the TNready test, after changing testing vendors, the test went without a hitch in Tennessee for all grades.
But districts across the state were left without TNReady scores on students’ final report cards, despite what students and parents were told for the past school year.
Districts blamed a short state timetable to turn in tests. State officials said they provided numerous warnings to districts about the deadlines.
McQueen said after that she will work with superintendents to think broadly about solutions so issues aren't repeated.