Education commissioner continues struggle to make TNReady work properly, reliably

Jun 15, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen is out with a plan she hopes will get Tennessee’s troubled TNReady online academic testing system back on track.

McQueen held a press conference Thursday to announce several changes following serious problems with this spring’s end-of-school-year testing.

Tenn. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen
Credit tennessee.gov/education

McQueen says the state will re-open bidding to attract new testing vendors, and require current vendor Questar to do more to avoid problems this coming school year.

She’s also many students will not be asked to take the online tests during the 2018/19 school year.

“Students in grades three through eight will take TNReady on paper for math, English and Social Studies. Students in High School will continue to test online for all end of course testing.”

Back in April schools statewide reported students having trouble opening the online testing system. Some students had to start over when the system failed to save tests they had completed.

Following word of the problems, Commissioner McQueen got a tongue lashing from State lawmakers. Some legislators called for her resignation.

The General Assembly eventually passed a measure that says teachers and schools can’t be adversely impacted by TNReady scores.

The head of the Tennessee Superintendent’s Association joined Commissioner McQueen at Thursday’s press event. Dale Lynch insisted problems with TNReady must be fixed, but also encouraged the state keep trying.

“We want to move forward with online assessments. Listening to superintendents and directors this past week and a half, we do not want to go back to paper and pencil.”

The complete press statement from Commissioner McQueen is included below.

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Education Department Announces TNReady Changes, Will Recompete Testing ContractAdditional steps include refining current Questar contract, revising timeline for online testing, engaging more teachersThursday, June 14, 2018 | 12:31pm

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced several new steps today to improve the state’s TNReady student assessment, including recompeting the state’s current testing vendor contract. These improvements are being made after ongoing conversations with teachers, parents, education leaders, and policy-makers over the past several weeks and are aimed at addressing a number of areas of concern.

The multi-faceted changes announced today will immediately improve the state assessment—TNReady—and establish a longer-term framework for success. The steps being taken to improve TNReady include:

  • Releasing a new Request for Proposals (RFP) to identify the assessment vendor or vendors that can successfully administer the state test in 2019-20 and beyond
  • Amending the state’s current contract and relationship with Questar to improve the assessment experience in 2018-19
  • Adjusting the pace of the state’s transition to online testing

These steps complement additional actions already in the works, including eliminating two TNReady end-of-course exams, eliminating the March stand-alone field test for the next two years, simplifying and streamlining test administration, bringing in a third party to perform an independent review of Questar’s technological capabilities, improving customer service, and engaging dozens of additional Tennessee teachers, content experts, and testing coordinators to look at every part of our state testing program.

“Teachers, students and families deserve a testing process they can have confidence in, and we are doing everything possible to meet that responsibility,” Commissioner McQueen said. “We are always committed to listening and improving, and we’ll continue to do just that.”

TNReady is a high-quality assessment that is aligned to Tennessee’s rigorous academic expectations. In May, a national study recognized Tennessee as the No. 1 state in the country for improvement in the quality of its academic standards, going from an “F” rating in 2007 to an “A” in 2017. TNReady is designed to measure those standards, and it has a variety of different types of questions to look for the depth of students’ knowledge. All of those aspects of the test will not change, but the RFP process will better ensure that students can take TNReady seamlessly and without disruption.  

Further details about the announcement today can be found in the fact sheet, which is also available on our website. The state is continuing to identify other areas of improvement, including potential test reductions, and will share more information as those decisions are made. More information about TNReady and the state’s assessment program is posted on TNReady.gov. For media inquiries, please contact Sara Gast, director of communications, at Sara.Gast@tn.gov.