February 06th, 2017

State of Education in Tennessee

SCORE’s annual State of Education in Tennessee report analyzes the state’s progress in improving student outcomes, delineates work that has contributed to achievement gains, and provides recommendations to the state to ensure we continue to prepare all students for success in college and the workforce. The comprehensive report is grounded in extensive research and feedback from educators, higher education faculty, the Tennessee Department of Education, business and philanthropic partners, and other stakeholders.

2017 Priorities for Tennessee

Accelerate Support for Tennessee’s Educators

  • Improve teacher preparation
  • Continue commitment to multiple-measure teacher evaluation system
  • Improve teacher compensation
  • Empower teachers through stronger professional learning and expanded leadership opportunities
  • Build strong school leadership pipelines

Drive toward Excellence and Equity for All Tennessee Students — Especially Underserved Students

  • Expand access to highly effective and diverse teachers
  • Capitalize on opportunities in ESSA to serve all students
  • Ensure all students have access to rigorous early postsecondary and career opportunities
  • Increase employer participation in student career readiness

Stand Firm on Tennessee’s Policies That Have Led to Historic Gains While Seizing Opportunities to Advance Innovation

  • Provide stability for educators regarding assessment, accountability, and academic standards
  • Maintain strong academic standards
  • Take advantage of opportunities to innovate

SCORE CARD: State Achievement Data

  • Over a third of students in Tennessee are economically disadvantaged.
  • Tennessee’s graduation rate is the highest ever, but only 17% of public high school graduates are prepared for college-level courses in reading, English, math, and science.
  • 2015 was the first time Tennessee fourth-grade students ranked in the top half of states in math, after ranking 46th just four years before. Eighth-grade math performance also has improved, but Tennessee needs to surpass 12 states to reach the top 25.
  • In science, Tennessee now ranks in the top 20 states for both fourth and eighth grades.
  • Tennessee students have made steady gains toward the top half of all states in grade 8 reading while grade 4 reading declined from 2013 to 2015.
  • In 2015, fourth-grade low-income students in Tennessee surpassed the national average for their peers in math.
  • However, Tennessee has made no progress closing the math achievement gap for low-income students for nearly a decade. The reading trend is similar.
  • In 2015, Tennessee’s African American students for the first time outperformed the national average for their peers in fourth-grade math.
  • In reading, neither African American nor white students in Tennessee have surpassed the national average.
  • In 2015, Tennessee fourth- and eighth-graders doubled the average national growth in science.
  • This growth was driven by historically underserved students—African American, Hispanic, English learners, and students with disabilities.
  • Only 17 percent of Tennessee students are college-ready in all four subjects tested on the ACT. The national average is 28 percent.
  • Thousands of 2016 graduates were within two points of the benchmarks.
  • Fewer than one in ten African American students are meeting the benchmark for college readiness in at least three subjects.
  • Tennessee cannot meet the Drive to 55 goal without increasing college and career readiness for all students—particularly underserved students.
  • Only four in 10 Tennessee students take at least one EPSO before graduation.
  • Who is left out? Girls, low-income students, African American and Hispanic students, English learners, and students with disabilities.

SCORE CARD: State Achievement Data

  • Tennessee was recognized as the fastest improving state in the nation on fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading scores on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). These gains were sustained in 2015, with the exception of fourth-grade reading.
  • For the first time on a NAEP examination, Tennessee fourth-graders scored in the top half (25th) of students nationally in math.
  • In 2015, Tennessee African American fourth-graders for the first time scored higher overall on the NAEP math exam than their African American peers nationally. However, the average Tennessee African American fourth-grade math score (on a 500-point scale) was 20 points below the average score of white Tennessee fourth-graders and 22 points below that of white students nationally.
  • Since 2010, the percentage of Tennessee students meeting the college readiness benchmarks has increased. However, Tennessee high school juniors continue to score below national averages and trail many other states with universal ACT administration. In 2015, only 17 percent of public high school test-takers met all four ACT benchmarks.
  • Among the 24 states in which more than 70 percent of high school students took the ACT in 2015, Tennessee’s overall average composite score of 19.8 (on a scale of 36) ranked above only four.
  • Although 38 percent of white Tennessee students scored at college-ready levels on at least three of the four ACT subject areas, only 21 percent of Hispanic and 9 percent of African American students did so.