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Preliminary TCAP data shows improved test scores
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MURFREESBORO (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday applauded the state's improved standardized test scores but acknowledged more work has to be done to meet federal regulations.
Preliminary results from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program showed math scores in third- through eighth-grade improved by 7 percent this year over last year and reading scores improved by 3.7 percent.
In 18 school systems, student scores improved by 20 percent or more.
Despite the improvement, the state is only 41 percent proficient in math for those grades, and 48.5 percent in reading. Under guidelines of No Child Left Behind, the nation's governing education law, the state is required to be 60 percent proficient in math next year, 66 percent in reading, and 100 percent in both subjects by 2014.
"We're not at all satisfied with where we are," Haslam told reporters following his speech at Northfield Elementary School. "But it is a significant step forward."
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled failures next year if No Child Left Behind isn't changed, even though education experts have questioned that estimate.
Still, no one thinks states will meet the law's goal of 100 percent proficiency in just three years. A school that fails to meet targets for several consecutive years faces sanctions that can include firing teachers or closing the school entirely.
Haslam acknowledged Thursday some change to the educational law is needed.
"With 80 percent of the schools projected to not be in compliance, we need to have some way to react to that instead of just say every school is not meeting the criteria," he said.
The release of the Tennessee scores comes a few days after an investigation in Atlanta revealed the involvement of 178 teachers and principals in a standardized tests cheating scandal. Criminal charges are likely for some of the 82 educators who confessed and the rest who were implicated by colleagues.
Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, told The Associated Press earlier this week that Tennessee's system to evaluate teachers could pressure some to meddle with scores. The value-added system measures a student's progress on standardized tests over time to evaluate the educators.
"A number of states are starting to follow Tennessee's so-called value-added measurement," Schaeffer said. "That's going to put even more pressure on educators to manipulate scores."
Haslam said he's going to make sure that doesn't happen in Tennessee.
"I think it's something you're always vigilant about, because we're saying data matters," he said. "And if data matters, the data needs to be pure, and authentic and transparent."