Tennessee earns mixed reviews on national education report card

Tennessee schools ranked low in academic achievement and school finance, but high in other policy areas in Education Weeks annual Quality Counts report, released last week.

Meanwhile, Memphis was pulled out as an example of a urban district seeking to improve its schools.

This year’s “state report cards” section ranks states on their policies in six categories:

  • School finance, including indicators of equity and spending;
  • “Chance for success,” which includes how strong the state’s early foundation programs and adult outcomes are;
  • Transitions and alignment, which includes indicators for early childhood education, economy and workforce, and college-ready indicators;
  • K-12 achievement, including indicators for change and equity;
  • The teaching profession, which includes indicators for professional development and incentives; and
  • Standards, assessments, and accountability, which includes measures for, standards, assessments and accountability.

You can read more about those indicators here.

The report gives Tennessee a D+ in K-12 achievement and a D in school finance analysis, but an A in transitions and alignment between schools and an A- in standards and accountability. Readers can manipulate the weighting of the various factors to determine their own ranking for states.

Tennessee ranked below the national average in school finance (47th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia) and chance for success (39th). It scored near the top in transitions and alignment (4th) and in the teaching profession (9th), and was in the middle of the pack (21st) for standards, assessments, and accountability and overall K-12 achievement (29th).

This is the 18th annual publication of a report that includes a survey of administrators and a set of articles on a theme – this year, District Disruption and Revival – alongside a report on key education indicators in the states.

Quality Counts also includes a “state highlights report” for each state, which includes a more in-depth breakdown of the state-specific rankings and the results of a survey of school administrators across the country about school governance and improvement. Here’s Tennessee’s state highlights report

The 450 survey respondents, who come from all over the country, answered questions about several policy ideas related to Memphis schools: For instance, while 62 percent of respondents thought merging high- and low-poverty districts would increase equity in school funding, only 31 percent thought mergers would raise student achievement and just 34 percent thought mergers would reduce achievement gaps.

State-led turnaround, a category that would include Tennessee’s Achievement School District, was generally not viewed favorably, with fewer than 1 in 5 respondents saying they thought it would reduce achievement gaps or improve student achievement.

Memphis was also a focus of the journalistic portion of the report. Here’s a piece on the changing leadership in Memphis schools in recent years,  with a new focus on multiple pathways; and here’s a video gallery that features a Memphis principal, charter school leader, the ASD superintendent, a parent, a student, and the leader of the NAACP in town reflecting on schools. 

There are plenty more interesting tidbits for Tennessee education nerds within the report.