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VOL. 39 | NO. 43 | Friday, October 23, 2015

Report: Small to no change on Tennessee national test scores

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Two years after Tennessee proclaimed itself the fastest-improving state for education in the country, that growth has leveled off, according to a national report that concluded the state has seen little to no change in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading scores over the last two years.

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress were released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

State officials said the news is still positive, as numerous states declined in many of the four categories, while Tennessee remained roughly the same.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said the state was able to retain its gains made in scores from 2011 to 2013

"There is no state that has improved as much as we have, and second place isn't close," Gov. Bill Haslam said in a conference call with reporters ahead of the report's release. "What we've learned is that what Tennessee is doing is working."

Educ ation Commissioner Candice McQueen echoed that sentiment in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

"We do believe they show the steadiness that Tennessee is maintaining," McQueen said. "We did not lose any ground."

The NAEP, also known as the nation's report card, is given to a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students every two years across all 50 states. The latest report shows Tennessee with a 21-point growth across all subject areas. Indiana was the closest state with 16.

Tennessee has remained near the bottom of national academic rankings, and state officials set a lofty goal in 2011 of becoming the state to see the most academic improvement by 2015.

In 2013, the goal already was met and Tennessee was praised for having the most point-gain increase of any state on the test at 22.

"A new set of fourth- and eighth-graders proved that the gains we made in 2013 were real," Haslam said.

However, the NAEP results show the state contin ues to struggle in fourth-grade reading. It went from 31 in 2013 to 36 on the latest report.

"Our NAEP results underscore the urgency to strengthen our literacy instruction from a very early age," McQueen said. "What we know is that reading matters, and reading does impact a student's achievement over their lifetime."

She noted a recent state report card that showed 52 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 are not proficient in reading language. Following that report, McQueen said the state would be taking a "long-term, multi-layered approach to literacy" that is part of a strategic plan.

She said Wednesday the fourth-grade reading NAEP results emphasize the need for early intervention.

"Our new strategic plan ... does note early foundations in literacy as one of the most important priorities, and we will be putting a great deal of effort in improving in those early years, and improving literacy across the board," McQueen said.

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