Tennessee's latest round of results on end-of-year tests show a strong bounce in most high school subjects, but a slight drop in junior-level English and a flattening at the middle-school level after years of growth in those grades.
"We're feeling broadly pretty good," Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said of 2013-14 results on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, taken by students grades 3-8, and end-of-course exams for high schoolers.
Huffman, who will formally unveil statewide rests results today with Gov. Bill Haslam, characterized the results in the middle grades as "pretty flat," especially compared to what had been four consecutive years of across-the-board increases after the state moved to higher Diploma Plus standards in 2010.
He said several things were at play in leading to static marks in middle school, including a process the state recently conducted to "narrow" TCAP to remove elements unrelated to more challenging Common Core standards.
On the other hand, scores on end-of-course exams in high school improved in five of seven subject categories, growing by as much as 5.9 percentage points in Algebra II. The most notable exception: English III, which dipped from 39.6 percent being proficient or advanced to 38.1 percent.
"We're seeing that, over time, this has rolled up to pretty good gains, which we think at some point in the next couple of years will start being reflected in ACT scores as well." Huffman said.
Tennessee showed historic gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the fourth and eighth grades last year, but the state is still lagging in the bottom third in middle school performance and even farther behind in12th grade.
This year's TCAP results have been more discussed than usual because of the state's three-day delay on releasing test scores to districts in May. Education officials said they were trying to complete a process called "post-equating" and narrowing tests prior to distributing scores to local systems.
The delay led to the state waiving requirements that local districts apply final scores to students' report card grades.
"Given that we narrowed the test, we thought it was really important that we could say to districts and schools that these results are accurate," Huffman said. "That's what we were trying to do. Obviously, it created a lot of inconveniences for districts, which was unfortunate."
This year had been expected to be the final year of TCAP. But in a compromise with lawmakers critical of Common Core, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to delay the planned move to the computer-based and Common Core-aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam. The state plans to soon open up a bidding process for prospective test-makers for 2015-16 that could still include PARCC.
District-by-district results are to be released later this month.