NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After years of “learning loss” from the COVID-19 pandemic test scores are rising in Tennessee.

On Tuesday the Department of Education released the 2022 TCAP scores which show student improvements in math, science, social studies, and English language arts coming out of the global pandemic.

“I’m super impressed with what our districts have accomplished,” Education Commissioner, Penny Schwinn, said. “I don’t want it to be lost on how difficult it is to achieve this kind of improvement in 12 months in everything that districts have been facing.”

But about 60% to 70% of students statewide still aren’t meeting or exceeding expectations in all four academic subjects.

To illustrate the kind of growth the state is experiencing, let’s look at the state-wide math scores.

In 2019 37% of students met or exceeded standards in math. In 2020 scores didn’t count. Fast forward to 2021 and the state reports that number decreased to only 25% of students meeting math expectations. But in 2022 that number rose back up to 30%.

“What we want to see is that continued focus on growth and improvement. We have seen that in math, we have seen that in ELA across the board in all grades in the state. We are seeing that in a faster rate than anticipated,” Schwinn said.

On a conference call Tuesday, Schwinn said economically disadvantaged students, English learners, and students of color suffered the greatest “learning loss” in the state, and while there’s been growth in every TCAP subject this year, Schwinn says Tennessee still has a long way to go.

“Are we where we want to be ultimately? If we’re thinking 10 years down the road, of course not. We want to ensure that every child has the opportunity to be successful and part of what that’s going to take is a continued commitment to funding our schools in a way that will help our districts and our teachers and our communities to get the resources necessary,” Schwinn said.

Schwinn also noted that “learning loss” was more pronounced in the youngest grades and data showed larger growth in the upper middle school and high school students.

TCAP 2022 Results

A more detailed breakdown of the 2021-22 TCAP results can be found here. Below are some of the takeaways from the results:

English Language Arts (ELA): 

  • Notably, ELA proficiency has returned to pre-pandemic levels in almost all grades, with more students scoring Met and Exceeded than 2019, including:
    • A 6-point gain in elementary school proficiency, which reflects the highest proficiency the state has seen in the last five years.
    • A 6-point gain in middle school proficiency from 2021 and matches our pre-pandemic achievement.
    • A 7-point gain in high school proficiency, which reflects the highest proficiency the state has seen in the last five years.
  • 36.4% of Tennessee students are meeting grade level expectations in ELA.
  • Proficiency gains were reflected in all tested grades in ELA.  
  • ELA-Related State Supports & Initiatives: Reading 360Tennessee Literacy Success ActTN ALL Corps; universal implementation of high-quality instructional materials; summer camps; Best for All Central resources.

Math: 

  • 3 in 10 Tennessee students are meeting grade level expectations in math. 
  • Based on national projections, math recovery is expected to recover faster than ELA. 
  • Growth in math matched or exceeded gains seen in previous years and is outpacing math projections for pandemic recovery. Between 35-55% of learning loss gaps are closed in math.
  • Math-Related State Supports & Initiatives: TN ALL Corps; summer camps; Best for All Central resources; free online tutoring resources available for all students.  
  • School Level Spotlight: 
    • Elementary: A 4-point gain in proficiency, which reflects a 33% gap closure from the pandemic.  
    • Middle: A 6-point gain in proficiency from 2021, which reflects a more than 50% gap closure from the pandemic.
    • High School: A 4-point gain in proficiency, which reflects a 50% gap closure from the pandemic.

Science:

  • Overall, proficiency rates held steady for science, with an increase of 2 percentage points.  
  • All grade levels experienced an increase in students scoring Exceeded Expectations.
  • Science-Related State Supports & Initiatives: Ongoing partnership with TSIN to expand STEM designated schools from 15 in 2018 to 88 in 2022; extended programming on PBS and Best for All Central resources; expanded STREAM programming in Tennessee summer camps.

Social Studies:

In January 2021, Governor Bill Lee asked the Tennessee General Assembly for a special legislative session to pass policies to prevent COVID-19 disruptions in the classrooms and support Tennessee students.