By Michael Edwards

While students in Knox County performed better than the state average on the recently-released TNReady assessments, nearly 60 percent are not meeting the standards that measure the knowledge and skills we know are necessary for success in post-secondary education and job training.

Translate that percentage to numbers and the results are even more chilling.

More than 8,000 Knox County third- through fifth-grade pupils do not meet the English/Language Arts standard, according to the data. The numbers are just as alarming in middle and high schools as 7,700 six- through eighth-graders were not proficient and 6,800 ninth- through 12th-graders scored below the standard for readiness to succeed in their next educational step.

The results were nearly identical in math.

We can take a modicum of pride that Knox County Schools’ students scored best among the four large urban districts in Tennessee. More importantly, however, this data demonstrates the urgent need to place more attention on preparing our children for success.

Students’ performance on TNReady reflects the readiness they show on national tests like the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), more commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card and a gold standard for assessments. Before the recent implementation of TNReady assessments, the state’s schools used assessments known as TCAP. Students performance on TCAPs were much higher than exams like NAEP and the ACT showed, which earned the state an “F” from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for “Truth in Advertising” about students’ readiness.

TNReady – developed in Tennessee by Tennessee educators – provides more accurate data about students’ future success than TCAPs did

Many families in November will receive students’ TNReady report cards, which will offer specific feedback to help them work in partnership with teachers and administrators to decide the best way to support their students’ education progress.

A small percentage of assessments – .1 percent or 9,400 assessments out of 1.9 million statewide – of high school end-of-course assessments were scored incorrectly initially and the errors were caught through the quality control process before reports were finalized. Third through eighth grade assessments were not affected.

Those who cite this hiccup and want to scrap the test now do a disservice to teachers, families and, most of all, students.

TNReady provides teachers, parents and the wider community the information all of us need to ensure our students are ready for the future and that the Knoxville economy continues to prosper.

Michael Edwards is president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber and represents the 2nd Congressional District on the Tennessee School Board.