Gov. Phil Bredesen and others are making the message clear: TCAP test score standards have never been higher, and Tennessee students overall aren’t poised to perform well.
Bredesen, with an assist from former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, kicked off a new campaign Tuesday to begin raising public awareness on the more rigorous academic standards in the classroom, and the almost certain disappointment that awaits thousands of Tennessee students. The project is dubbed, “Expect More, Achieve More: Raising the Bar in Tennessee Schools.”
The public awareness campaign, which will utilize television commercials, radio spots and social media, is the product of a new alliance — known as the First to the Top Coalition — composed of more than 30 business, community and education groups.
“This is going to be uncomfortable early on,” Bredesen said of the looming test results. “But it is what’s best for our kids.”
The increased TCAP scores are two years in the making. In 2008, the state opted to raise the accountability standards for annual TCAP tests, which students in 3rd through 8th grades take each April. State Education Commissioner Tim Webb said later this month the state’s Board of Education is expected to finalize new proficiency levels for students.
Over the next few months, parents of students are scheduled to receive TCAP test results. Because of a new formula used to calculate TCAP scores, state officials expect results to show a significant drop-off in student proficiency in reading and math. Webb said it would be presumptuous to project how many of Tennessee’s 1,700 schools would fail to meet the revised benchmarks.
“We’re going to see a drop in proficiency levels,” Webb said. “There’s no doubt about that. We’re going to see an increase in the number of schools that enter our accountability pipeline.
“For the first time in many, many years, we in Tennessee are being honest, truly honest with our students and our families,” Webb added, stressing the scores don’t indicate a “loss in knowledge.”
Frist, continuing his recent education streak, having launched the citizen-led Tennessee Score initiative last year, said the TCAP scores could come as a “shock” to many parents.
“We believe that this is going to cause a certain anxiety,” Frist said. “We call it a ‘standards anxiety’ among standards.”
Raising public awareness on the higher TCAP standards could be just the beginning for the new coalition.
At the high-school level, federal No Child Left Behind benchmarks have also increased. Educators have been bracing for the likelihood that many high schools and school district won’t meet the increased standards.
No Child Left Behind scores are expected to be released in October or November. Webb indicated the public-awareness campaign would likely pivot toward No Child Left Behind awareness at some point.