Nashville and Shelby County schools superintendents declare ‘no confidence’ in TNReady
The superintendents of the state’s two largest school districts declared in a Friday letter “no confidence” in TNReady after numerous years of problems.
Shelby County Schools Director Dorsey Hopson and Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph issued the letter to call for the state to halt the standardized assessment and convene a statewide educator working group to sort out the challenges.
“We believe educator and public trust in TNReady has fallen to irretrievably low levels,” says the letter addressed to Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. “We are challenged to explain to teachers, parents and students why they must accept the results of a test that has not been effectively deployed.”
Both superintendents said on Tuesday that they want to see the state to succeed in its testing efforts. Neither said the state needs to go backward, but instead, it needs to take time to ensure everything runs smoothly.
“It shouldn’t be that hard,” Hopson said.
Joseph added: “We have an opportunity here to ensure we get testing right.”
Lawmakers also warn against low confidence in the test
Meanwhile, lawmakers met once again on Tuesday to grill Tennessee Department of Education officials over the problems in the last year. Questions focused on how the department plans to ensure problems don’t persist in the 2018-19 school year.
The Tennessee Department of Education plans to proceed with the test next year, but won’t require online testing statewide. It is also searching for another vendor to administer the test in 2019 and beyond.
Both Democrats and Republicans warned of poor perception among parents and teachers of the test.
“There is very low morale across the state,” said Rep. Debra Moody, R-Covington.
And Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, said there is plenty of public angst and fear about the test after multiple years of issues tied to the test in some form or another.
“There is no confidence in the results,” he said, “because teachers have PTSD.”
The letter says districts have spent big to prepare for the test
The letter from Hopson and Joseph also says that districts have spent millions of dollars over the last few years on technology to prepare for TNReady when the assessment itself hasn’t functioned correctly. Those have effectively been unfunded mandates, the letter says.
And those investments, it says, could have been spent on teacher salaries, professional development and other needs.
“By the time the state achieves a fully functioning online assessment system, our original investments will have been rendered obsolete — and we will be forced to send another large technology bill to our mayors, county commission and Metro council,” the two said in the letter.
Education department responds to the letter
A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education said neither Haslam or McQueen have received the letter.
“We’ve engaged educators extensively in the development of TNReady, and for the past several months we had educators from Metro Nashville Public Schools and Shelby County Schools serving on our Assessment Task Force to advise our next steps with TNReady,” spokeswoman Sara Gast said.
The state is also bringing in 37 new educators to serve as TNReady ambassadors to further improve our assessment, Gast said, to “make sure educators inform and are involved with each aspect of our testing program.”
And the state, she said, has invested $1.5 billion new dollars in education since 2011, which includes doubling the amount of annual, recurring technology funding to schools.
“We believe technology is a critical aspect of teaching and learning to prepare students for the jobs that are available today,” Gast said. “And our hope is that teachers are using technology in their everyday teaching — not just to administer a test.”
TNReady’s history of problems
The letter from Hopson and Joseph comes after yet another year of TNReady problems.
Hopson said of the testing snafus that “there’s just such a level of dejection” from teachers and administrators.
This year, after initially believing there was a “deliberate attack” against the state’s vendor, it was revealed that Questar Assessment made unauthorized changes to the online test that caused issues for students.
► Tennessee seeking a new vendor: Tennessee won’t require every student to take TNReady online next year, will allow competition for a new test vendor
► 2018 Tennessee Educator Survey: Perception of standardized testing low after TNReady issues
Lawmakers intervened as the test was being administered statewide, ensuring TNReady results didn’t hurt students, teachers or districts.
Last year, the state’s vendor incorrectly graded some paper tests, causing widespread questions from teachers and lawmakers.
And in 2016, under the state’s first vendor, the online test was canceled entirely, with high school students taking a paper version of the test. Measurement Inc., the vendor, wasn’t able to deliver paper tests on time to elementary and middle schools.
► 2017-18 statewide TNReady results: TNReady testing scores mostly flat, but results dip in high school English
[Read More at The Tennessean]