Education in Tennessee is Up and Coming But That Doesn’t Help Today’s Students

Last week, Education Week released its 2017 Quality Counts national report card on education and Tennessee scores below the national average in every indicator. 

The good news is that we have repaired that which was perennially broken while significantly ramping up standards and expectations. The bad news is we’re missing those that fall into the gap between what was and what will be. 

According to this report, overall, Tennessee schools are operating at a C-just below the national average and rank 36th out of 50. It’s certainly nothing to cheer about, but there are reasons to believe the best is yet to come. 

Chance for Success

This category gives me pause. Education Week grades the educational influence a state has over the lifetime of its residents. Tennessee falls below the national average in each sub-category.

How we fared: 

Early Foundations– C+ ranking 39th

School Years (PreK-12)–  C- ranking 39th

Adult Outcomes (post-secondary educational attainment and workforce performance)– C- ranking 42nd

School Finance

I’m going to make this short and sweet; we received an F (46th!) in spending and a B in equity measures. 

Tennessee’s $9,499.10 per pupil expenditure ranks near the bottom and our larger school systems are rightfully begging for more. The Nashville School Board voted last summer to sue the State of Tennessee for more funding to adequately serve the district’s growing English Language population, the largest in the state. Metro Schools joins Shelby County (Memphis) and Hamilton County (Chattanooga) in suing the state for a bigger slice of the Basic Education Program (BEP) formula. 

Tennessee is no stranger to the courts after enduring years of a funding equity battle known as the “Small Schools Lawsuit,” the impetus for the creation of the extremely complex BEP formula. The funding distribution formula received a B and ranks 5th in the nation. 

Still, we need more money while ensuring each district’s portion adequately serves its diverse student populations. 

K-12 Achievement 

This category measures 18 areas of achievement such as reading and math, high school graduation rates, and Advanced Placement scores and breaks it down into three sub-categories. 

Status measures TN’s current performance: D- (36th)

Change measures TN’s improvement over a period of time: C+ (3rd)

Equity measures achievement gap between free and reduced meal students and non-FARM students: B (29th)

Hard Work Ahead

As mentioned above, Tennessee’s future is bright. Great decisions have been made in recent years that will yield tremendous dividends in the future. However, today’s students stand to miss the benefits. 

Yet, I believe Tennessee is working hard to align the new Tennessee Succeeds strategic plan with the Every Student Succeeds Act. We will get there. Together. 

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