Academic Achievement

Despite significant improvement since our last report, student performance in Tennessee remains lower than average. Eighth grade students stand 6 percentage points below the national average of 34% in the percentage at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

Tennessee earns a low grade on academic achievement for low-income and minority students. Twenty-two percent of Hispanic 4th graders score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam, 4 percentage points below the national average.

Return on Investment

Student achievement in Tennessee is middling relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living.

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

Tennessee posts excellent marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Tennessee earns an average grade preparing its students for college and careers. Despite an 83% high school graduation rate, a mere 10 students out of 100 pass an AP exam.

21st Century Teacher Force

Tennessee does a solid job of creating a strong teacher workforce. The state is especially good at identifying effective teachers. 

Parental Options

Tennessee does a poor job providing parents with strong school choice options. Recent changes in the state’s charter school law removed a cap on the number of schools that can operate in the state, but digital learning options are limited.

Data Quality

Tennessee earns a very good grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data. The Volunteer State provided funds for a longitudinal data system, provides public reports on school performance, and links student performance data with teacher data. 


Tennessee receives a very poor grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning. Students have very limited access to high-quality digital learning options. 

International Competitiveness

Tennessee earns a failing grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy. Only 24% of students are proficient in reading and math compared with an international standard. Only 8 out of 1,000 students pass an AP foreign language exam.

Fiscal Responsibility

Tennessee receives excellent marks on fiscal responsibility. Ninety-two percent of the state’s pension is funded, and its most recent contribution was 100%.