Students statewide showed improved average test scores in 23 of 24 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program categories this year, according to data released Tuesday.
Gov. Bill Haslam declared the score results “great news” that “makes it hard for anyone to argue that Tennessee is not on the right path now in education.”
The governor and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, joined by state legislators to in a celebratory announcement of the score results at a Nashville school, said gains in the key subjects of math and science were particularly impressive. Eighth-grade reading was the only subject that did not show gains this year.
The results, Haslam and Huffman acknowledged, still leave room for improvement.
About 47 percent of students scored at proficient levels or advanced in math, up from 41 percent a year earlier, an improvement that means 55,000 more students statewide achieved the desired level.
Just 34.6 percent had proficiency in 2010, the first year of results after proficiency standards were raised during former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration.
“This shows if we set expectations higher, students, parents and teachers will meet them,” Huffman said.
In Science, 60.5 percent tested at proficient compared to 54.9 percent last year and 51.9 percent in 2010.
The improvement in English proficiency was less that Huffman had declared as a goal previously – three to five percentage points – but still 49.9 percent were deemed to have knowledge at their grade level.
Achievement also improved on most high school “end of course” exams, officials said. More than half of high school students scored proficient or advanced in English I, English II, Algebra I, biology and history for the first time since standards were raised.
Results for individual school districts across the state have not yet been announced. Huffman said they would be released at the local level in mid-July.
“The continued success of students is a testament to how much work Tennessee teachers have done in the classroom,” Haslam said. “We’re so proud of our students, teachers and parents or supporting statewide efforts to improve education and it is exciting to see gains for a second year in a row.”
Among other highlights in the 2012 scores singled out by state officials:
-Half of all students in grades 3-8 were at grade level or better in reading for the first time since standards were raised.
-High school students made the biggest gains in Algebra I with proficiency levels up more than a third over the past two years.
-Scores also increased for Algebra II, now required for more students than in past years. An additional 10,000 students took the exam this year.
-Students made greater improvements in biology than in 2011 with about 56 percent performing at or above proficiency levels.
-In the high school “end of exam” results, there were sligh declines in performance on English I and U.S. History, though in both cases more than 95 percent of students were deemed proficient.
Jamie Woodson, a former state senator from Knoxville who now serves as president of the education advocacy group known as SCORE, was on hand for the announcement event along with House Speaker Beth Harwell, Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham and others.
All said the results are a cause for cebrating that Tennessee is on the right track.
Harwell said that “change is always difficult,” but state legislators “stayed the course” and the numbers released show “the future path of our education in Tennessee is bright.”
Woodson, who served in the Legislature when standards were raised in 2009, said the results are “a testament to the efforts of students, educators, parents and other citizens to raise the bar.”
“There is no one silver bullet. But the comprehensive focus our state has placed on improving education is producing improved results,” Woodson said.