Tennessee’s latest round of student-achievement test results shows the performance-gap narrowing somewhat among students of varying economic and social backgrounds.
“Economically disadvantaged students across the state grew at a faster rate than their more affluent peers, which defies national trends,” said the state’s education department commissioner, Kevin Huffman. “We are encouraged and excited by these results, but there is still more work to be done in closing achievement gaps in Tennessee.”
According to results from the 2013 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program released June 27, students performed better generally in a range of areas than last year. Huffman noted that this marks the third consecutive year of continued improvement on the TCAP.
In addition to scores going up for students as a whole, “they went up even faster for our free and reduced-price lunch students,” said Huffman.
This is counter to what is typically seen across the rest of the country, Huffman said. “In most places the gap is actually widening between poor students and their peers, so this is a really important step forward for us,” he said. “We also saw some gaps narrow for Black and Hispanic kids, which is promising. We have more work to do there.”
Huffman and the Tennessee Department of Education under the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam have declared that closing performance gaps between students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds is a priority.
Huffman stressed to lawmakers earlier this year that Tennessee’s goal is to become the “most improved” state overall educationally. Success in that regard necessarily means making it a key and unambiguous aim to improve public school learning environments for African-American, Hispanic and lower-income students, Huffman has said.
“There is a long, long way to go,” Huffman said during a press conference after the release of the TCAP results. “The fact that the scores are going up a little bit more for lower-income students is good, but we’ve got to keep it going. It’s a huge area of focus, so this is one of our goals. We actually made equal goals around closing the achievement gap and raising the overall achievement in our (No Child Left Behind) waiver. So there’s just a much greater emphasis in schools and districts specifically on that.”