Get ready for one of those sham celebrations manufactured by the Tennessee Department of Education to mark alleged improvements in student academic performance.

While talking about how the state will toughen up its standards for the state’s school districts, state educational bureaucrats recently downgraded the score that it will take to be judged proficient in reading and language arts.

This means that there will possibly be yet another one of those misleading major announcement that the percentage of students achieving proficiency went up again; however, there will be no mention of the fact that it took place because fewer correct answers will be needed to be scored proficient.

In The Top Five, Really?

When compared to the other 49 states, Tennessee Department of Education claims – with a straight face, no less – that our state’s students are among the top 5 in the U.S. in eighth grade math and reading, fourth grade reading and math, and high school reading.

It’s an incredible claim, especially when the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) ranks Tennessee #40 and puts its percentage of proficient students in the range of about 25 per cent. In case your math proficiency has been certified by Tennessee DOE officials, we point out that there is a difference of about 65 percent between what the state officials say and what the independent national test says.

One educational researcher issued what he calls the “Pangloss Index,” named for the character in Candide who, despite all evidence to the contrary, always argued that all was well. On that index, Tennessee’s results rank it as the 11th best state in student achievement. Again, that compared with the NAEP ranking of 40th in student achievement, and more disturbing, since 1992, test scores have been relatively been flat.

No Cause To Celebrate

Speaking of misguided celebrations, we were stupefied by a recent well-publicized report that said that the Memphis school district, among the 50 largest districts, is among the top five in graduating more students than the suburban districts surrounding it.

That sure got our attention, and we were ready to pull the bull horn out of the storage closet. Then, we realized that if the America’s Promise report is correct, Memphis City Schools increased its graduation rate more than 27 percent in only one year.

As a result, we put the bull horn back in its place, and we were left wondering why the Gates Foundation continues to fund this kind of misleading research.