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TCAP Scores and Beyond

Expect More, Achieve More!
School standards are up; test results are down


When looking at your child's TCAP test scores, there’s something every parent - and every employer - needs to know: Tennessee has raised the bar. Last spring’s exam was the first taken with new standards in place, and the level at which a student will be considered “proficient” (or passing) has gone up significantly. This means that many students who passed the 2009 test will not have passed the 2010 test - even though those students may actually know more than they did in 2009.

This is good news.

The new standards are more honest than the old ones. Our state has been indicating to students that they are “proficient” and ready for college or a good job when that really wasn’t true in many cases. The new standards are much more closely aligned with what colleges and employers expect high school graduates to know.

Test scores will dip; they always do. In fact, we already know that only about half of Tennessee’s students have passed the test, and on some parts of the test, only about 25% of students passed. But just as test scores always drop when the bar is raised, they always go up after that. Students and teachers will rise to the new challenge.

The timing is right. Tennessee recently won $501 million in federal Race to the Top dollars and made some major changes in state law, so teachers will receive extra training and support to help students achieve more. But we all need to pitch in to help.

What can parents do?

If your child scores “basic” or “below basic” on any part of the state TCAP exam that he or she took last year, your child needs some extra help in that subject.

1. Don’t get discouraged.

a. This doesn’t mean your child is going backward in knowledge. But it does mean he needs to work harder to catch up to the higher standards, which are more demanding.
b. Reassure your child that he or she is capable of doing the hard work that’s needed to succeed.


2. Ask for help. Call your child’s teacher or school and put together a plan for helping him improve.

a. Parental involvement is critical to helping a child achieve more. Schedule a time to sit down with the teacher and talk through your options.
b. Meeting higher standards probably means more catch-up lessons for your child at school and more homework at night. He’ll need your support.


3. Know the facts. Understand why high standards are important to your child’s future.

a. Life is no longer about competing with people in the same town. Today, Tennessee students are competing with other students in countries like Japan, China, and India.
b. Times have changed. Thirty-five years ago, just 28% of U.S. jobs required training or education after high school. Today, 80% of jobs require some kind of training beyond high school.

This change in our schools is really important for Tennessee’s future. If we expect more, we can achieve more, and our students, our state economy, and our community will be better off than ever before.

To learn more about the Tennessee Diploma Project, which is the source of these changes in standards, visit

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