While the state results of NAEP's 2013 Mathematics and Reading Assessments report, released earlier this morning, reveal some progress since 2011 among some states, only two saw improvements in both subjects and in both 4th and 8th graders in the past two years. These two bright spots, Washington D.C. and Tennessee, have made phenomenal gains, with increases in the last two years matching the growth the average state has seen in ten.
We wouldn't claim that state teacher policies are anything more than one factor in the mix, but we do think they are a big factor here. Tennessee earns one of the strongest grades in NCTQ's State Teacher Policy Yearbook and the District would too if only District policies were codified at the "state" level. (As evidence of that, check out the recently released NCTQ report on teacher evaluation systems, in which we do evaluate the District's policies directly and they earn high marks.)
While NAEP's reports, and our own, reveal that there is still much to be improved in all states, including the District and Tennessee, there is also much to be recognized. Not only did both DC and Tennessee prioritize good teaching and invest heavily in their teachers, both have fully embraced higher academic standards for their students. Even more telling, both have implemented new policies with a palpable sense of mission and urgency and have experienced considerable blowback. Everyone knows the D.C. story, but the school chief in Tennessee, Kevin Huffman, has taken more than his fair share of kicks as well from district superintendents in that state. It's great to see that their efforts are paying off.