So often in my career as an educator, I have benefited from getting another perspective. Whether it was feedback about how to improve instruction from a principal or another colleague, a parent’s insight about the needs of their child, or an opportunity to collaborate with another director of schools, I always found the additional information helpful in developing new approaches that would help students improve.
Tennessee is getting a fresh perspective of how well students in grades 3-8 are meeting our higher expectations with the first TNReady assessment results for these younger students. With TNReady, Tennessee is resetting how we measure whether a student is on track and on grade level in English language arts and math, and the test is more challenging in a couple of ways. Some questions do not offer a list of answers to choose from, and some problems must be solved without a calculator.
Because this is a reset moment, the TNReady scores look different. This year’s scores cannot be compared to previous results from the old Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), and it would not be fair to students or teachers to try to do that. Because students are adjusting to a new test, it is not surprising or alarming that many of them are in the “approaching grade level” range this year.
Teachers have worked with the Tennessee Department of Education to develop a TNReady scoring system that reflects the knowledge and skills a student needs to be on grade level and progressing toward graduating truly prepared for a wide range of postsecondary options. Thanks to that work, the first TNReady scores are in line with results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
For example, TNReady results show that just under 34 percent of students in grades 3-8 are on track or have mastered English language arts, and NAEP results from 2015 showed that 33 percent of fourth- and eighth-graders in Tennessee were proficient or above on reading. NAEP, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, is considered the gold standard for measuring student achievement, so educators and parents can have confidence that TNReady is providing a high-quality measurement each year for each student in grades 3-11.
With their first TNReady results, our students in grades 3-8 have set a new base for future growth. Historically, Tennessee students have shown us they rise to the challenge when our expectations are high, just as our teachers have shown us that they can and do make the changes in instructional strategies to ensure our students’ success. Tennessee went through a similar reset on assessment scores with TCAP in 2011, and it was followed by a growth spurt in student achievement never before seen in our state. Since 2013, Tennessee has led the nation in academic growth on NAEP. Why has that happened? One important reason is that our teachers and students developed a growth mindset to learn more and learn more deeply each year.
TNReady results give teachers valuable information about how to structure their lessons to have students do the work that meets the expectations of the academic standards. Parents are also going to get TNReady family reports with specific advice about the next steps their children should take to continue learning at a high level this school year. Because of the fresh perspective offered by the TNReady results, we will be able to see new ways to help Tennessee students continue to grow academically.