Tennessee: Assessments and Results

Tennessee Statistics

We hope to take a brief look at assessments and results in each of the 50 states as a way of taking a broad view of the education climate in the country.  Our hope is to provide you with key information and to give you one place where you can read articles about each state.  If we can spark discussion and change amongst our educational systems, then our efforts will be well worth it.


The traditional state assessment program in Tennessee is called the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP).  The state is now moving toward a new program called TNReady.  TNReady looks to implement more rigorous standards; it focuses more on critical thinking and problem solving skills.  It incorporates questions that require short responses and fill in the blanks.  Writing also, for the first time, has been incorporated into the English scores for students and students are not allowed to use a calculator on some parts of the exams in math.

In Tennessee the most recent results reflect 2015 - 2016 data on statewide tests.  Grades 3 - 8 had testing suspended during this time period, so we will only discuss high school results.  

High school students are required to take End of Course exams in several subject areas and 228,287 high school students took at least one End of Course exam in 2015 - 2016.

They took exams in three areas that were based on the new TNReady assessments:  English language arts, mathematics and social studies.  End of Course exams for biology and chemistry were given based on the previous achievement and assessment guidance.

2015 - 2016 Results

Scoring is structured into four categories (old categories are in parentheses):

  1. Mastered (Advanced)
  2. On Track (Proficient)
  3. Approaching (Basic)
  4. Below (Below Basic)

According to TN.gov these categories "emphasize students' readiness for the next grade level or content area."  

End of Course English exams (English 1, 2 and 3)

  • 8.3% scored in the mastered category
  • 22% on track
  • 42.4% were approaching
  • 27.3% were below course expectations.

This means that about 70% of the students who took the exams were approaching or below expectations and only 30% were on track or at the mastered level.

In high school math (which included algebra I, algebra II, and geometry, as well as a series of integrated math courses):

  • 3.7% scored in the mastered category
  • 17.1% were on track
  • 26.2% were approaching 
  • 53% were below expectations

Thus, 79.2% were approaching or below expectations and about 20.8% were on track or at the mastered level.

In the U.S. History End of Course exam:

  • 9.5% were considered mastered
  • 20.4% on track
  • 34.6% approaching
  • 35.5% were below expectations

Thus, 70.1% were in the approaching or below expectations categories and 29.9% were on track or at the mastered level.

Desk Red and Black Ink, LLC 2016

Graduation Rates

When it comes to graduation rates, the state measured the percentage of students who finished high school within 4 years and a summer based on the amount of students who had entered the 9th grade four years earlier.  Thus, the graduation rate for 2015 - 2016, for the entire state, was 88.5%.

  • For black students it was 82.3%
  • For Hispanic or Latino students 83.7%

Compared to the National Center for Education Statistics' data for the 2013 - 2014 school year, Tennessee's graduation rate, as measured by the amount of students who entered into the 9th grade for the first time and graduated with a regular high school diploma, within 4 years (without the summer), was:

  • 79% for black students,
  • 81% for Hispanic students and
  • 91% for white students

Goals and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

As you may know the ESSA is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and it replaces the No Child Left Behind Act which was signed under President Bush. (See our summary)

Tennessee has adopted several goals as a part of its plan to move forward.  Each state is required to produce a state plan as a requirement for receiving funding under the ESSA.

Currently, less than 50% of all 3rd - 8th graders score as proficient (on track) or higher in reading.  In the fall of 2014 about 43% of graduates from high school did not enroll in postsecondary training or education.

Tennesse has laid out, as a part of its draft ESSA state plan, the following goals.

  1. "Tennessee will rank in the top half of states on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) by 2019 (currently Tennessee is in the bottom half of all states, but is making significant strides).
  2. 75% of Tennessee 3rd graders will be proficient in reading by 2025 (currently only 43% score as proficient in reading by the end of the 3rd grade).
  3. The average ACT composite score in Tennessee will be a 21 by 2020.
  4. The majority of high school graduates from the class of 2020 will earn a postsecondary certificate, diploma, or degree."

We will update this information once the state plan for Tennessee is approved.


Copyright, 2017, Red and Black Ink, LLC.

Sources and References:

"2015-15 High School Results."  TN Department of Education. http://tn.gov/education/topic/2015-16-high-school-results Accessed January 2017.

"Every Student Succeeds Act:  Building Success in Tennessee."  ESSA State Plan.  Tennessee Department of Education. December 19, 2016.  Draft State Plan.

"Public High School Graduation Rates," National Center for Education Statistics.  (Last Updated: May 2016)  https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp

"Tennessee High School Students Set New Baseline with First Year of TNReady Results."  TN Department of Education.  November 4, 2016.  Accessed January 2017.  http://tn.gov/education/news/46568

Danita SmithTennessee