While more students at Metro Nashville Public Schools are performing well on this year’s state tests, the percentage scoring at or above grade level is less than their peers statewide.
In every tested subject — such as reading, math and science — the percentage of middle and high school students proficient or advanced lagged behind the state, often leaving more than half of students below grade level.
MNPS officials released details Thursday of the district’s test scores under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, a yearly exam administered in the spring.
Director of Schools Jesse Register said he was pleased with the district’s continued uptick in scores that are part of a growing three-year trend for the district. The four-year graduation rate has also improved, he said, from 76.2 percent to 78.4 percent.
“Overall, we’re very pleased to report that our students continue to make progress in student achievement,” said Register. “We’re very pleased in (that) the way we’ve represented the graphs is that we see some change from last year to this year. But we also think, and perhaps more important is, the trend lines continue to show good growth.”
The district’s trends up and down largely mirror the state’s shifts in test scores. For the district — like the state — the greatest improvements are in math and science scores, though well behind the state average. English and reading and language arts scores also struggled to budge this year, a factor officials said was due to teachers being distracted by learning new Common Core teaching standards. Going into next year, the district plans to beef up focus on those subjects with a K-12 literacy plan.
“We’re not satisfied with where we are on the Algebra II and the English III, but the growth is significant,” said Paul Changas, executive director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation.
Highlights of the reported TCAP scores include:
• In the district, high school Algebra I proficient or advanced scores jumped nearly 10 percentage points this year, from 41.8 percent of students last year to 51.4 percent now. Statewide, more than 60 percent of students scored at least proficient on that test.
• In Algebra II, the district climbed 7.1 points from 17.1 percent of students at least at grade level to almost one in four, or 24.2 percent, this year. Across the state, 42 percent of students are at least proficient.
• Third- through eighth-graders also performed better in math than they did last year. Collectively, students at or above grade level climbed 3 percentage points to 42.4 percent this year, compared to just over half of students statewide.
• In science, middle school students held steady in biology with less than a 1 percent increase at 45.2 percent proficient or advanced. Statewide, more than 62 percent of students scored at grade level.
• Growth in English scores posed a problem for the district and the state. In the middle school grades, reading and language arts scores slipped less than 1 percentage point to 39.9 percent at or above grade level. At the state level, English scores inched about 2 percentage points to more than half students at least proficient statewide.
• In high school, English I scores rose 2 percentage points to 57 percent proficient or advanced, although 68 percent of students statewide scored at grade level.
• English II scores dipped little more than 1 percentage point in the last year to 47.5 percent, compared to 59.5 percent of students across Tennessee.
• English III scores were much lower both at the state and Metro level which climbed 4 percentage points to 26 percent. Statewide, just short of 40 percent of students are at least at grade level.
More data that measures individual student growth from year is not yet available, nor is school level data, which is expected to come out next month.
While the district falls behind the state in the percentages of students at grade level, the district has more narrow achievement gaps between minority students and students with disabilities and their overall peers.
The gap between students with disabilities and their peers without disabilities is less than half the state’s gap in third through eighth grades in reading and math, according to the district. Black, Hispanic and Native Americans — who are statistically lumped together by the state, also have an achievement gap roughly half of the state’s in the same grade levels.
However, the achievement gap for low-income students is smaller statewide than it is in MNPS, according to district statistics.