Results from the 2024 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) were released this week, showing the continued positive impact of the state’s investments in the public education system. We continue to see record high proficiency rates in English language arts for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders — signaling that the state’s focus on early literacy instruction is paying off for students. These results are a testament to the hard work being put in every day by students, teachers, families and administrators across Tennessee. The data also continue to remind us of the importance of using standards and annual assessments as an essential building block for improving student success.

While student-focused policies have supported recovery from pandemic-related learning loss, there is still more to be done to ensure all students are on track for success. From 2021 to 2023, achievement gaps between student groups widened significantly. This year, despite steady overall growth, gaps remained persistent and have not yet started to meaningfully close. It is critical for Tennessee to renew its focus on addressing opportunity gaps for students who are traditionally underserved.

Below are five key data visualizations that celebrate the important progress in student learning and highlight areas of concern that need to be addressed.

Across Groups, Students Are Exceeding Prepandemic ELA Performance; Though Concerning Equity Gaps Remain

This year marks record high performance in ELA across student groups, solidifying pandemic recovery aligned to strong early literacy supports. Despite groups now exceeding prepandemic performance, achievement gaps have not narrowed and, in some cases, are wider now than they were in 2019. Namely, economically disadvantaged students (who make up roughly one-third of Tennessee students) scored proficient at half the rate of their noneconomically disadvantaged peers.

Math Proficiency Rates Continue To Improve — Notably, the Percentage of Students Scoring in the Lowest Performance Category Has Declined Dramatically Since 2021

Overall math proficiency rates for grades 3-8 have not quite caught up to the prepandemic high of 40.8% in 2019; however, trends in student performance show meaningful progress for recovered student learning. Since pandemic-related declines in 2021, the Below performance category has declined more than 10 points. This means more students are on track to achieve or are achieving proficiency in math.

Post-Pandemic Early Literacy Rates Continue to Climb

Tennessee’s investments in early literacy are continuing to pay off. Across 3rd, 4th and 5th grade, statewide ELA proficiency rates continue to rise, breaking prepandemic records. Fourth-grade gains are particularly noteworthy — nearly half of all 4th graders are earning proficient scores on the ELA TCAP, up from one in three 4th graders just three years ago. 

7th Grade Math Proficiency Exceeds Prepandemic Rates, But the Lowest Performers Still Need Support

The results for 7th-grade math show stable increases in proficiency for all students. While overall 7th-grade math proficiency now exceeds prepandemic rates, the proportion of students scoring in the Below category is still above 2019 rates. These results are promising, but they suggest a need for intensive recovery efforts aimed at the lowest performers.

High School English Achievement Gaps Need Attention

From 2019 to 2024, the overall rate of proficiency for English I and II end-of-course (EOC) exams increased nearly 10 points — from 33.7% to 43.1%. However, achievement gaps between groups remain a concern. Promisingly, gains for students of color and economically disadvantaged students range from 4.5 to 7.6 percentage points between 2019 and 2024. However, gaps between groups persist.

  • For every noneconomically disadvantaged student that is not proficient in English I and II, there are two economically disadvantaged students who are not proficient.
  • There is also gap for Black and Hispanic students. For every five White students who do not meet proficiency in this subject, there are around seven Black or Hispanic students who do not score proficient in English I and II.

Additional Promising Outcomes in Science and Social Studies

In addition to math and ELA, students made strides in science and social studies assessment across grades 3-8.

  • In science, overall student proficiency hit a record high of 44% this year — growing more than 6 points since 2021.
    • Steady increases were made across student groups averaging about 1 percentage point from 2023 to 2024, leading to equity gaps remaining consistent.
  • In social studies, overall proficiency continues to exceed prepandemic performance, reaching a record high of 45.3% in 2024. Proficiency in social studies has increased by nearly 8 percentage points since 2021.
  • Historically disadvantaged student groups have made strong progress this year in social studies.
    • Black student proficiency increased 3.4 points from 24.2% in 2023 to 27.6% in 2024.
    • Hispanic student proficiency grew more than 4 points from 31% in 2023 to 35.2% in 2024.
    • This outsized growth for Black and Hispanic students corresponds to a slight narrowing of equity gaps by 2 and 3 percentage points, respectively.

Alexis Parker is SCORE’s Director of Data. Graduate Fellows Grace Glasgow, Zac Hyder and Jack Jue also contributed to this post.