Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen announced the 2018 TNReady student assessment results Thursday, sharing that while results vary statewide, there are encouraging trends – including strong growth in English language arts for elementary grades and improvement in high school math. Students in historically disadvantaged student groups also showed notable progress. Gaps between student groups narrowed in multiple areas, and students in Priority schools – including the Achievement School District – grew faster than their non-Priority school peers nearly across the board.
The results also show areas for needed focus, especially in middle school, where all subject areas showed a decline in overall performance. Additionally, students across the board saw declines in science, which reinforces the need to support teachers as they transition to new science standards and a new science test in 2018-19. At the district level, all but three districts increased proficiency areas in at least one content area or grade band, but only 20% of districts improved in a majority of subjects and grades – highlighting the varied nature of the results.
“We see reason to be encouraged, but we also have a lot of work to do to meet our higher expectations for all students,” Commissioner McQueen said. “While we’ve focused extensively on early grades reading and are starting to see a shift in the right direction, we know middle school remains a statewide challenge across the board. TNReady serves as a vital feedback loop for teachers, parents, and administrators to tell us where we are, and the results inform what steps we need to take to help all students and schools succeed. We are committed to improving implementation of TNReady so that parents, educators, and the department can continue to know how our students are doing each year.”
Key takeaways from the results
The department has released state- and district-level results for TNReady math, English language arts (ELA), science, and U.S. history. School-level results will be released in the coming weeks. Social studies results for grades 3-8 will be available this fall after an extended scoring process led by Tennessee educators is complete, as this test is in its first year.
Students score in one of four performance categories: below grade-level, approaching grade-level, on track, and mastered. Students scoring in the top two performance categories – on track and mastered – are considered to be proficient for that content area.
In 2018, for elementary school (grades 3-5) TNReady exams:
- 7% of students were on track or mastered in ELA, up from 33.9% in 2017
- 40% of students were on track or mastered in math, same as 2017
- 56% of students were on track or mastered in science, down from 58.6% in 2017
For middle school (grades 6-8) TNReady exams:
- 1% of students were on track or mastered in ELA, down from 33.5% in 2017
- 6% of students were on track or mastered in math, down from 35.7% in 2017
- 2% of students were on track or mastered in science, down from 62.2% in 2017
For high school end-of-course exams:
- 4% of students were on track or mastered in ELA, down from 34.6% in 2017
- 5% of students were on track or mastered in math, up from 21.5% in 2017
- 3% of students were on track or mastered in science, down from 51% in 2017
- 8% of students were on track or mastered in U.S. history, down from 30.8% in 2017
The elementary school ELA results are encouraging given the state’s focus on early grades literacy through its Read to be Ready campaign, which launched in full in 2016-17. Through Read to be Ready, the department has invested in literacy coaches for early grades teachers, funded summer camps to help students who are behind catch up, established new literacy standards for educator preparation, and started new work to provide a variety of high-quality materials and resources for teachers – among other initiatives. The department will continue to support this work to drive additional progress in this foundational area.
Student group performance
2018 TNReady results highlight that students in historically underserved populations – English learners, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and students who are Black, Hispanic, or Native American – often grew faster than their peers, and they frequently bucked the trend when overall progress was down. While there is still a need to further narrow performance gaps, the results show progress in this area:
- Students who are Black, Hispanic, or Native American narrowed performance gaps in math across the board
- Students with disabilities narrowed performance gaps in middle school for both math and ELA
- Students who were recently English learners improved proficiency rates faster than all students in many areas – ranging from grades 3-5 ELA to U.S. history
- The full English learner student group, which includes recently exited students, narrowed the gap with their non-EL peers in both math and ELA, with an across-the-board increase in the percent of EL students scoring on track and mastered
- Students who are economically disadvantaged also narrowed performance gaps in ELA
- Across the board in ELA, the percentage of students from these populations who were in the lowest achievement level decreased – so students are growing, even if they are not yet on track
School district highlights
Districts showed a variety of outcomes on TNReady. Of particular note, there were several who scored in both the top five for growth and the top five for overall achievement level for a particular subject or grade band. Those are:
- Arlington Community Schools (grades 5-8 science)
- Clinton City Schools (grades 6-8 ELA and 6-8 math)
- Greeneville City Schools (U.S. history)
- Johnson City Schools (high school math)
- Moore County Schools (high school science)
- Rogersville City School (grades 3-5 science)
Additionally, one district – Williamson County Schools – remains in the top five for overall achievement in every grade band and subject area. A list of the top 10 districts for every grade band and subject area, by both improvement and overall achievement, can be found here and here.
Context for the results
The majority of the 650,000 students who took TNReady this year did so on paper, but about 300,000 students took TNReady online. Given the challenges with online administration in the spring, the department hired a third-party expert – HumRRO – to do an analysis of the results to see if and/or how the disruptions impacted the scores. HumRRO found minimal impact on the overall scores, and the state has already made policy adjustments to ensure no adverse action is taken against any student, teacher, school, or district based on the 2017-18 data. While HumRRO’s analysis is complete, their report is being finalized and will be shared with the school-level results in a few weeks.
District leaders also have shared feedback with the department indicating that other factors that resulted from the technology challenges in administering the assessment – such as conversations and media coverage related to test results not counting in student grades – may have set a tone that impacted student performance, even though most students were not directly affected by the online challenges. The department has taken numerous steps to improve the administration of TNReady moving forward, which can be found here.
2018 TNReady state-level results are available here, and district-level results are here. Additional context about which districts opted into take TNReady online for grades 5-8 is here. For more information about TNReady, please visit TNReady.gov. For media inquiries, please contact Sara.Gast@tn.gov.