NASHVILLE – The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has released the following statement from President and CEO David Mansouri about the 2020-21 TCAP results:

The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) results from the tests administered last spring give teachers, families, and education advocates fresh information about where students stand academically after an extraordinary school year. A lot of students are going to need a lot of extra support over the next few years to meet the state’s high academic expectations.

The 2020-21 TCAP results help us understand the impact of COVID-19 disruptions on learning over the past 16 months. They also give us important insights about what to do now to help students whose learning was most affected.

Early literacy remains an urgent priority for the state, with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) reporting that two-thirds of third-graders placed below grade-level expectations. We must do better by young readers because strong reading and writing skills at the end of third grade will lead to success throughout school, college, career, and life. We think the state’s new literacy law and professional development in literacy instruction for our teachers are the right steps. Equally important is using rigorous, engaging curriculum that helps students build foundational reading skills and knowledge.

After some good gains over the previous 10 years, math proficiency rates in middle and high school are a new area of concern. TDOE reported that about a quarter of seventh-graders were meeting grade-level expectations in math, 10 points lower than in 2019. More than two-thirds of students in their first high-school math course, either algebra or integrated math, scored at the lowest performance level. Students with solid math skills will have the widest range of college and career opportunities. High-dosage tutoring has been effective in helping older students meet math expectations, and SCORE is supporting efforts to expand this strategy in Tennessee.

The pandemic disruptions didn’t affect all children equally, and the latest TCAP results show that achievement disparities have started to widen for African American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students. Learning support programs at the district and school levels should acknowledge these disturbing differences by directing more resources to students who are underserved so they have an equitable chance to succeed.

Tennessee’s school districts have deep resources to implement research-supported strategies like high-dosage tutoring and extended learning options thanks to billions of dollars in state and federal investments to support COVID education recovery efforts. We encourage parents, educators, advocates, and community leaders to stay informed and be insistent about using these funds first to support greater student learning.

TDOE, district and school leaders, and teachers are to be commended for successful assessment administration with a 95 percent participation rate. TDOE is putting the data into educators’ hands promptly despite the extended testing window.

With wise investment by districts leaders and great teaching, Tennessee can and will see improved academic performance in the years ahead. There’s no more important mission before us.