If you ask Bill Haslam to interpret the significance of recent Tennessee ACT scores that show the most impressive statewide gains in a decade, he’ll tell you it shows teachers are doing a great job.
That, and it’s more evidence much-resisted education reforms initiated and implemented by his administration are creating positive results. Despite difficult workplace transitions, Teachers are adapting adeptly, and deserve praise, he said Wednesday.
“I think it’s further verification that we have great teaching going on in Tennessee schools, and we’re seeing the results of that,” the governor said following an event at Antioch High School to promote a new state program offering free community college to any graduating senior in the state.
Tennessee saw a gain of three-tenths of a percentage point in its ACT composite scores for all the state’s public and private school students, according to a news release from the state Department of Education.
The governor noted Tennessee is one of only 12 states that require ACT testing for all students — meaning the sampling wasn’t biased toward college-bound students.
This year’s increase is also the biggest jump since Tennessee “began testing all students in 2010,” according to the department.
The ACT gains, coupled with Tennessee’s designation last fall as the country’s most improved state on the so-called “Nation’s Report Card,” have Haslam confident his reforms are working.
Results like that “don’t just happen,” he said.
The Department of Education’s news release indicated “gains correlate with recent academic growth in high school on the 2014 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP.” It adds that while academic improvement was evident across socioeconomic lines, the results “point to the continued need to close achievement gaps” among minority student.
Skeptics of the Haslam administration’s emphasis on wide-scale standardized testing — and his reforms in general — aren’t buying that the results mean Tennessee is on a sustainably productive path in public education.
“It’s great to see an improvement. But we need to be cautious about placing too much emphasis on those test scores,” said Barbara Gray, president of the Tennessee Education Association.
If the Haslam administration believes higher ACT and NAEP scores tell a complete story, many teachers “would disagree with that,” said Gray. Test scores don’t necessarily mean a better-educated student, she said.
“We know the students are being tested all year long, and they’re becoming better test takers because they’re being tested,” Gray said. “So, it’s important to me that we look at multiple measures of students’ achievement, to determine if the students really are achieving at a higher level.”