Oct 3 2007
11:17 am

I just re-noticed a recent New York Times article, "States Found to Vary Widely on Education," on how states rate the results of their standardized tests and how they vary. Tennessee was specifically mentioned. See: (link...)

The article was based on a U.S. Department of Education study, available at: (link...)

Here is a quote:

Academic standards vary so drastically from state to state that a fourth grader judged proficient in reading in Mississippi or Tennessee would fall far short of that mark in Massachusetts and South Carolina....

For example, an eighth grader in Missouri would need the equivalent of a 311 on the national math test to be judged proficient. That is actually more rigorous than the national test. In Tennessee, however, a student can meet the state's proficiency standard with a 230, a score well below even the basic level on the national exam.

-- OneTahiti



I looked briefly at this referenced report and thank you for posting it. I plan to read more in-depth when I have a while to digest it. I did see the note in the documentation that stated:

"These results should be employed cautiously, as differences among states in apparent stringency can be due, in part, to reasonable differences in the assessment frameworks, the types of item formats employed, and the psychometric characteristics of the tests. Moreover, there is some variation among states in the proportion of NAEP sample schools that could be employed in the analysis."

This is one analysis only one piece of data. Other national results show a different picture. In the above analysis Tennessee looks like the cows tail, but on national ACT results , Tennessee is a composite 35th, not great, but a lot better than 50th. Tennessee also has higher ACT results of any state in the South with the exception of Florida.

So why is Tennessee last (or near last) in 4th and 8th grade in the above referenced study, but statistically significantly better than the lower 1/4 of all states in ACT results? Is it because our teachers are better in high school than in the lower grades, or is the difference due to how the data are being measured or the methodology being used to generate the results? I suspect the latter. Or is it something else, like the type of students who take the tests?

Do we need to concentrate on educating our children in Tennessee? Absolutely. But I don't think there is anyway that we are last or near last on the academic curve.

I am certainly open for advice on how to improved academics -- It is a hard thing to do. Georgia's lottery bonanza attracts droves of teachers from surrounding states with high salaries. Facilities are better in general than in Tennessee. GPA's have increased over one letter grade for all students since the the HOPE scholarship was introduced -- thus making more students eligible to attend college on scholarships -- but there is one big caveat to this. With all the positive things mentioned above -- the average ACT score in the state has not improved -- Tennessee is still better in all areas.

So what is the answer to how to improve academics?

Nation's Report Card

Check out this link, you can sort and filter a bit too. (Yeah, I see where Tennessee surfaces.)


This is a recently released report entitled the Nation's Report Card.

WSJ on 09-26-2007
Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, pointed out that NAEP scores have been improving for more than 15 years. In a fact sure to be cited by opponents of No Child Left Behind, Mr. Jennings noted that gains were sharper immediately before the law took effect than afterward. "That finding is going to be one of the most explosive," he said.

Another National Report Card, on ultimate outcomes

See: (link...)

-- OneTahiti

Can you Pass These Tests?

Check out the following:

Entrance Exam for MIT in 1876 (link...)

Entrance Exam for MIT in 1869


Yes :)

You picked my old alma mater! :)

I just worked through the 1876 one.

Unless I messed up--always a possibility--I found a couple of mistakes in the test. I'm in the middle of something but will try to come back later and double-check. Note that there is a minus sign missing in the statement of problem 9 in the 1876 Algebra test; the last y**(2/3) should be y**(-2/3).

Also, problem 8 on the same test should have two solutions given, the x=-4, y=0 one shown in the answer set, and also x=-1, y=3. :)

I love this kind of stuff.... :)

-- OneTahiti

No way!

I am impressed with OneT.

Times have changed


Thanks so much for the kind words :), but those old MIT tests are not that impressive. They covered roughly 6th through 10th or 11th grade math, nothing that should be remarkable.

For more of a challenge and perhaps a wake-up call, try these recent college entrance exams ("JEE") from the Indian Institutes of Technology: (link...)

We should be comparing ourselves to places like India, not just locally. How many students in Roane County could pass those JEE tests or even have the vocabulary to know what the questions are asking?

-- OneTahiti

MIT tests

but those old MIT tests are not that impressive. They covered roughly 6th through 10th or 11th grade math, nothing that should be remarkable.

Nonetheless, I am impressed with your ability to work and get them all right!

Thanks, EN


Thanks for your kind words too. :)

However, I am greatly saddened when folks are impressed by the working of math problems from middle and high school.

The ability to do K-11 math should be the norm for high school graduates, not the exception.

It is sobering to think how far we are from that goal.

-- OneTahiti

After looking at some of the

After looking at some of the test questions I realized I could definitely pass if I spent a great deal of time on it.

But I studied under the SUPER FABULOUS Nancy Thompson for all my Math courses at HHS years ago. Teachers really do matter.

Had I taken the test within a year or two from Ms. T's instruction it would have been no problem. Too much time passing and very little use has left me rusty.

I know several students in our school system who could pass the tests. The opportunity for learning is definitely available here in Roane County Schools. The challenge is inspiring the majority of the student population, not just the motivated minority, to embrace the opportunities available.

Would it be safe to say Roane County Schools could offer more advanced and diverse courses to students if there were more students interested and capable of enrolling in these courses?

I know our system has some high-acheiving students. But we also have so many with just the potential to be high-acheivers. How do we reach the second group? How can the system turn potential into actual results?

Both the Board of Education members and the teachers I'm betting have taken many training courses, inservices, etc., on the subject of tapping into the potential of students just under the radar. But there are still so many in that group. What else can we do and where should we start?

I'm with ya there, on NMT as a teacher...

And don't be fergettin her hubby, Johnny. I can tell you a story about him.

I know someone who went off to Tennessee Tech to study chemistry. When he got there, either as a freshman or early sophomore, he was in a professor's office and picked up a lab manual for nuclear chemistry. After looking over this lab manual he commented that he liked it and he had used it in high school. The professor was shocked and asked WHERE he had gone to high school to use that lab manual, and went on that they used that in their 3rd year intro to nuclear chemistry at TTU. When the prof was told that this fellow had gone to Harriman High School, he asked who taught chemistry there. When told it was Johnny Thompson, the prof's remark was, "Oh - I shoulda figured that one out!"

Indeed - teachers really do matter. I think your questions are very much to the point and are important. Recognizing this stuff and discussing it seems to me to be a reasonable place to start.

I'm glad we have a coupla school board members frequenting this forum.


Grasshopper: What to do


You wrote, "What else can we do and where should we start?"

About the math proficiency issue: As someone who has long experience in successfully getting folks able to correctly do math at levels from grade school through college, mostly at the high school math level, and as someone who despite the deteriorations of middle age :) can still work such problems, I can tell you that I know what must be done--and monetary costs are very low--but folks probably won't want to hear it.

-- OneTahiti

Oh shucks! I read this one too hastily!

"I can tell you that I know what must be done--and monetary costs are very low--but folks probably won't want to hear it."

I missed that little challenge completely.

I am the FURTHEST thing from a math pedagog that exists. So - DO tell us what this way is. I would love to be enlightened!

Hopefully I can see where I missed the math boat... it was a real pain for me in college.


thanks again, RB!


I'll get to writing something up. Hold your horses... :)

-- OneTahiti

RB, here you go! :) Success in math


Since you asked, RB: (link...)

And thanks for asking! :)

-- OneTahiti

make sure we select a category


This is all good stuff. I'll try to go back and edit posts to select the category "schools" for each one it pertains to. That way if someone wants to join a specific discussion on schools they can simply search the category and it will all pop up.

I have a feeling we'll get some ideas worth saving and we are certainly getting geat info from our participating School Board Members.



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