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Tennessee Schools Won’t Hit Their Goal For Improving By The End Of The Decade, New Data Show

Flickr, via Creative Commons

Tennessee is not going to reach an ambitious educational goal set by the state in 2015, data released Wednesday show. 

The state had hoped to outperform the national average by the end of the decade. But Nation's Report Card shows that student growth in the state has remained stagnant.

In 2015, the Tennessee Department of Education set a 5-year goal to move the state academically from the bottom half to the top half of all states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest standardized test administered nationally by the federal government.

But now, the current education commissioner, Penny Schwinn, is telling reporters that Tennessee will not meet that goal.

She declined to say where Tennessee now ranks on education, noting that the NAEP has asked states not to do so, but she says the numbers make clear where the state stands.

"NAEP has used pretty strong language on whether or not that's a valid measure," Schwinn said. "But, if you look overall, we are not in the top half."

But there is at least one positive. The state saw an increase in fourth-grade math — one of four areas tested.

But, fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math and reading didn’t see that much of a change.

The report also shows that white, non-low income students made the biggest gains. Meanwhile, the most underperforming student groups are low-income, Hispanic and English-language learners. 

It’s unclear whether Tennessee will keep its 2015 mission for improvement. Schwinn says the department will be more intentional about how to address the needs of school districts.

"We need to provide differentiated support for them to help them tackle their very, very different challenges," Schwinn said. 

Schwinn says details on how the state plans to do that will be found in the department's strategic plan, which will be revealed next week.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.