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School & District Management

Tennessee Earns a C-Minus on State Report Card, Ranks 39th in Nation

January 17, 2018 | Updated: September 05, 2018 3 min read
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The 22nd annual edition of Quality Counts continues Education Week’s long-standing tradition of grading the states on their performance. A state’s overall grade is the average of its scores on the three separate indices tracked by the report.

State Overview

This year, Tennessee finishes 39th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 71.0 out of 100 points and a grade of C-minus. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C.

Diving into the findings for the three graded indices, Tennessee earns a C in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks 40th. The average state earns a C-plus. In School Finance, Tennessee receives a D and ranks 43rd. For the K-12 Achievement Index, it finishes 28th with a grade of C-minus. The average state earns grades of C in School Finance and K-12 Achievement. More details on results in these categories are reported below.

Chance for Success

The Education Week Research Center developed the Chance-for-Success Index to better understand the role that education plays in promoting positive outcomes across an individual’s lifetime. Based on an original state-by-state analysis, this index combines information from 13 indicators that span a person’s life from cradle to career. Those indicators fall into three sub-sections: early foundations, school years, and adult outcomes.

For early foundations, which examines factors that help children get off to a good start, Tennessee earns a grade of B-minus and ranks 39th. The average state posts a B-minus.

Tennessee receives a C-minus for the school years, a sub-category focusing on metrics related to pre-K enrollment through postsecondary participation. It finishes 40th in the nation in this area. By comparison, the nation as a whole earns a C-plus.

In the area of adult outcomes, based on postsecondary educational attainment and workforce indicators, Tennessee’s grade is a C. It ranks 42nd in the nation. The national average is a C-plus.

School Finance

The school finance analysis examines two critical aspects of school spending. Of the eight indicators in this category, four assess school spending patterns, while the remaining metrics gauge equity in the distribution of funding across the districts within each state.

Across the spending indicators, Tennessee finishes with an F compared with a national average of D-minus. Tennessee ranks 46th in the nation in this area.

On the equity measures, Tennessee receives a B-plus, which places it 14th in the national rankings. The nation as a whole earns a B.

K-12 Achievement

The K-12 Achievement Index examines 18 distinct achievement measures related to reading and math performance, high school graduation rates, and the results of Advanced Placement exams. The index assigns equal weight to current levels of performance and changes over time. It also places an emphasis on equity, by examining both poverty-based achievement gaps and progress in closing those gaps.

Indicators in the index can be broken down into three sub-categories: status, change, and equity.

Measures in the status sub-category evaluate a state’s current performance. Tennessee receives a D-minus in this area and ranks 39th in the nation. The average state earns a D-plus.

The change sub-category examines a state’s improvement over time. In this area, Tennessee posts a C-minus and ranks 17th. The national average is a C-minus.

In the equity sub-section, states are graded based on achievement gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers. Tennessee’s grade on those poverty-gap measures stands at an A-minus. Nationally, it ranks third in this area. The nation as a whole receives a B.

View more 2018 reports on states and the nation

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