Are Tennessee students really heading toward literacy?

Susan EspirituOn the Flipside

TCAP Scores Show Steady Growth Among Tennessee Students reads the headline. The article continues to promise that the state is working to ensure all students are learning on grade level. As a former Tennessee educator, always a parent and grandparent, I want some real clarification of these statements.

I am usually a very Pollyanna type person but when the “Growth” that is touted so boldly is a movement from 40.5 to 40.9 in third grade reading scores and 40.5 to 41.6 in third grade math scores, I am a bit dismayed those marks are tracking toward grade level achievement for all.

I am a lifelong educator and know the educators are working as diligently as they can, so I would offer two observations for others who might read those results with the same sort of query I had when seeing them.

First, those scores are based on a standardized test that has become a primary means of evaluating student performance and school accountability. It is often used to measure a student’s knowledge and skills in various subjects, such as math, reading and science. There can be concerns about a one-shot test.

A concern with standardized testing is that they may not accurately reflect a student’s true abilities or potential. Test anxiety, cultural bias and varied testing formats can all impact a student’s performance, leading to inaccurate results. This can be particularly problematic for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who may face additional barriers to test success.

It is important to consider multiple assessment methods that provide a more comprehensive view of student learning and growth so educators can gain a more accurate understanding of a student’s strengths, weaknesses and progress.

The other observation I see is the point about students being on grade level. It would appear there are 59% of the third-grade students in the state of Tennessee not reading on grade level if only 41 percent are proficient.

When students read at or above their grade level, they are better equipped to comprehend complex texts, engage in critical thinking and acquire new knowledge across various subjects, serving as the foundation for their academic success.

True, all students do not progress at the same pace or face the same challenges in reading. Factors such as language barriers, learning disabilities and limited access to resources can impact a student’s reading abilities.

It is crucial for educators and schools to provide targeted support and interventions to ensure that all students have the opportunity to reach grade-level reading proficiency. This requires funding by the state and districts for the support in every school so there are people in the building to help the students at their individual level. What I have seen happening now is more focus on computer programs and less on people to support. In my opinion, you cannot replace the eye-to-eye support an individual can give a student who needs support.

Promoting literacy and supporting students in reading on grade level requires a collaborative effort from educators, families and communities. See our Thursday feature, Kronick’s Chronicles, on how Bob Kronick has been addressing this issue for decades through the implemented University Assisted Community Schools.

I guess my overall point is for all of us to keep asking questions about results and keep asking what can be done in YOUR school to help support EVERY child to reach their highest potential so we actually do achieve literacy for all Tennessee children.

 All of us have a story and sometime I tell the Flipside! Send comments to


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *