(This column was written for The Tennessean and published on March 11, 2019.)
A decade ago, the nonprofit State Collaborative for Reforming Education, or SCORE, began collaborating with Tennessee’s leaders, educators, and community and education advocates to make Tennessee one of the fastest-improving states in the nation.
Children in Tennessee today have better opportunities for success in college and career than any Tennesseans in history, and we are proud of the state’s unprecedented progress in student achievement. But as SCORE enters its second decade of service and releases our newest State Of Education In Tennessee report, we want to see our students climb higher and faster.
From 2011 to 2017, Tennessee students made historic gains in national math and reading achievement, reaching as high as 34th or 35th in the nation. A few years earlier, we had been as low as 46th. Students in urban, suburban, and rural areas all saw improvements.
Our students were even more impressive in science: Fourth-graders’ achievement rose to 19th highest in the country and eighth-graders 21st highest.
But in the last couple of years, some of Tennessee’s progress has slowed. State test scores declined a bit, and students of color, students with disabilities, English learners, and low-income students are not seeing the success of better advantaged students.
New Tennessee Higher Education Commission data show that nearly half of the freshmen at public colleges are not ready for college-level classes, with 46 percent taking remedial math and 33 percent taking remedial reading. Some Tennessee high schools did not graduate even one college-ready student.
Now is the time to re-ignite the spirit of urgency and innovation that led to a decade of academic progress. Our new report urges the state to take even bigger steps forward in specific ways.