TENNESSEE, USA — State education leaders said that scores on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program have plummeted this year.
The Tennessee Department of Education said that around 25% of students meet expectations in math for their grade levels, based on TCAP scores. Meanwhile, around 30% of students meet expectations in English. In early every grade level and subject area, there were proficiency declines.
Leaders said they expected scores to drop due to the pandemic, but also commended districts and schools across the state for their hard work to provide valuable services to students. Some schools provided free lunches, while other teachers visited children at home during virtual learning.
"Despite the hard work of our teachers, administrators and staff last year, the pandemic created enormous challenges that impacted students' academic progress and we must do everything we can to help them catch up," said Bob Thomas, the Knox County Schools superintendent.
The county managed to stay above the average proficiency rates of the state. Around 34.7% of third-grade students were considered proficient across all subjects, and around 29.5% of grade 7 students were considered proficient.
"The single easiest, simplest solution that any student can do for any standardized test is to increase their reading speed and comprehension," said Bobby Nicholson who helps prepare students for standardized tests.
He said students who spend 20 minutes reading per day tend to perform better in a variety of subjects, including mathematics. Some other experts said parents could boost their students' scores in English by making vocabulary fun.
"Say if it's a word like 'gesture' — make a silly gesture with them," said Caitlyn Tucker, an ELA interventionist. "Make a silly gesture with them and show them, 'this is what that means.'"
Sometimes, parents can encourage learning by offering candy or small amounts of money while helping students with lessons. However, there is another part of learning that helps students succeed in learning — spending time with their parents.
"That extra one-on-one time with mom and dad goes a long way," said Brooke Givens, who has a fifth-grade daughter in Alcoa.
During a special legislative session, lawmakers prevented negative consequences to districts' and schools' accountability this year, as long as their TCAP participation rates were 80% or higher.
Officials said that all districts in Tennessee met that threshold, and 95% in the state met the federal 95% participation rate threshold.