Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Gov. Haslam stands behind TNReady despite delays


The question is whether Questar is the right test provider. The company had already been responsible for the science and social studies sections, and next year, it'll also handle math and English.

But the governor and McQueen said Questar likely will be around at least through TNReady's fall testing. It'll be up to districts to decide whether teachers who don't accept their students' scores would be able to collect performance bonuses.

Haslam also said that, despite this year's headaches, Tennessee must forge ahead with computerized testing.

"We believe we have to get better", said McQueen. He added that officials have "worked hard to get a test that matched the standards and to have the outcomes of that be part of the [teacher] evaluation". "There's a little bit of a practical problem switching vendors right in the middle of that, so it's part of negotiations we're in the middle of", he said. "And not just now but for years to come".

The state's top educator is promising next year's standardized testing will go more smoothly - and she's making some changes to try to bring that about.

Haslam said a lot of the economic development progress the state has made in luring new companies here or existing ones to expand is based on Tennessee "preparing its students".

After weeks of being on the defensive, Haslam's administration sought to take control of the situation and emphasize that testing - done correctly - is critical to improving student achievement across the state. "It's not that is where the world is going".

After three years of testing problems, McQueen announced that Tennessee will create a "TNReady Ambassadors" program to improve customer service and will hire a full-time overseer to work with testing coordinators at the district level.

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Among the problems were an apparent cyberattack, connectivity issues and a fiber optics line severed by a dump truck.

There was plenty of sound and fury a month ago about TNReady tests.

And Haslam acknowledged things weren't helped to begin with when state lawmakers forced the administration much earlier to abandon proceeding with the national Common Core consortium and its tests. The state had to start from scratch.

Districts would be able to decide whether to use test data in evaluating individual students, but McQueen said they would not be able to drop students a letter grade.

Lawmakers passed legislation barring adverse action being taken against any student, teacher, school or district based on 2017-18 online TNReady results.

The tests won't be used in the A-to-F grading systems for schools, although the numerative data will continue to be shared on the school "dashboards".

Priority schools. As planned, the state will release its "priority list" this fall of the 5 percent of lowest-performing schools, but this year's test results will not be a factor.

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