KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee students overall are back to pre-pandemic performance levels for English Language Arts or ELA, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.

Overall, the statewide 2021-22 TCAP student participation rate was 98% with 59 districts having participation higher than 99%. That’s much better than what national models had predicted and officials are expecting this to take several more years. Tennessee education commissioner Penny Schwinn credits a heavy emphasis on early reading and other targeted efforts that came in response to the pandemic.

Students also showed progress in Math, but not to the extent seen in English. Tennessee is not quite back to pre-pandemic scores in Math but Math is bouncing back faster than ELA.

Still, in both subject areas, the numbers aren’t great in terms of pure performance. Just over one-third of Tennessee students are reading at or above grade level. For Math, it is 3 in 10 at or above grade level. Tennessee is also still seeing disparities in race and income groups.

Notably, in English Tennessee education officials did not see the achievement gap increase or decrease during the pandemic or after; which is different from other states where economically disadvantaged students dropped further on ELA scores in the pandemic and haven’t recovered as much.

In Math, Tennessee’s economically disadvantaged students are seeing a slower recovery than others. Students with disabilities also recovered faster than their peers in math.

“We are very confident in this data,” Schwinn said. “We’ve had the data checked and re-checked. Again, super-impressed with what our districts have accomplished.”

Schwinn also noted that the test scores show even more improvement when considering participation rates.

The pandemic kept lots of students from participating. That’s even more true for disadvantaged students. Those students tend to perform worse on these tests. Now they’re back in the testing population and Tennessee is still showing growth when their return might have been expected to drag overall scores down.

Families can engage with the TCAP Family Portal, which is a free online resource that helps Tennessee families of students understand their results. The portal provides TCAP test history features to track progress over time; the TCAP scale scores and performance levels by subject; parent guides and resources; and individualized recommendations for improvements.

Families can access this resource by registering at familyreport.tnedu.gov