Tennessee and DC Make Big Gains on Nation’s Report Card

November 8, 2013

The 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results in Mathematics and reading were released yesterday and the results indicate modest gains nationally with substantial gains in Tennessee and the District of Columbia.  Dubbed ‘The Nation’s Report Card’, the NAEP test is widely considered an accurate assessment of student learning in the United States.

Here are some of the findings from the 2013 test:

  • 4th graders gained 1 point in math but had no gain in reading since the 2011 exam.

  • 8th graders gained 1 point in math and 2 points in reading since the 2011 exam.

  • 42% of 4th graders are proficient in math while only 35% are proficient in reading.

  • 35% of 8th graders are proficient in math and 36% are proficient in reading.

  • The District of Columbia, Tennessee, Hawaii, and Department of Defense schools all increased both 4th and 8th grade math scores from 2011.

  • The District of Columbia, Tennessee, Iowa, Washington, and Department of Defense schools all increased both 4th and 8th grade reading scores from 2011.

A closer look at the data shows the substantial progress that Tennessee and the District of Columbia have made since the last NAEP exam. Tennessee and DC have made greater gains than any other state, with the only exception being California in 8th grade reading (DC tied with Tennessee for second).

State

Math 4th Grade Gains

Math 8th Grade Gains

Reading 4th Grade Gains

Reading 8th Grade Gains

District of Columbia

7 points

5 points

5 points

6 points

Tennessee

7 points

4 points

5 points

6 points

U.S. Average

1 point

1 point

1 point

2 points

The big question is, what is responsible for these big gains in Tennessee and DC? Has the robust charter school movement in our nation’s capital had a direct effect on scores? Did the teacher evaluation and compensation program implemented by Michelle Rhee help raise student achievement? Has the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in the District nudged students upwards?

And what about the Volunteer state? Just a short 6 years ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Tennessee  a ‘D’ in academic achievement, and ‘F’ in truth in advertising’, and an ‘F’ in postsecondary and workforce readiness in its 2007 Leaders & Laggards report. How has the state reversed trajectory?

As a result of its dismal showing on the Leaders & Laggards report, Tennessee state and local government officials, business, and postsecondary and K-12 leaders helped to align education standards to the skills needed to be successful in higher education and the workplace. Additionally, in 2010, Tennessee continued to raise its education standards by adopting the Common Core and improved its teacher evaluation system by including student achievement as a key metric.

By no means are Tennessee and DC out of the woods—there is still a long way to go to ensuring every child receives a great education. What this does tell us, however, is that the reforms put into motion by leaders in the two jurisdictions are having a direct impact on student success. The data doesn’t lie.

Mark D'Alessio is manager of communications for the USCCF's Education and Workforce program.