The superintendents of Tennessee’s two largest public school systems are asking the state to “hit the pause button” on TNReady, the state’s buggy, beleaguered standardized testing system.

“We are writing to join a growing number of districts, legislators, teachers, parents and students in expressing concerns about the lack of reliability of the TNReady assessment system,” wrote Shelby County Schools Director Dorsey Hopson and Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph, whose districts represent 20 percent of all public school students in the state. After years of repeated implementation failures and missteps by multiple vendors, we believe educator and public trust in TNReady has fallen to irretrievably low levels. ... When basic delivery is botched, it’s difficult to trust the fundamental integrity of the underlying assessment.”

They also noted that districts have spent millions of dollars over the past few years on technology to prepare for TNReady tests that didn’t happen or didn’t count. That’s not even counting the millions of dollars taxpayers also have sent to big corporations for testing materials.

“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,” they wrote.

The two superintendents sent their warning letter to Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen.

TNReady testing earlier this year was disrupted by a cyberattack, a dump truck that cut a fiber-optic cable, and other problems. So many districts had so many problems with Questar’s online testing, legislators intervened and said TNReady results wouldn’t hurt students, teachers or districts.

In 2017, test results were delayed for weeks after thousands of students received incorrect scores because of a problem with Questar’s scanners. Questar is the testing company Tennessee hired to replace Measurement Incorporated after TNReady’s catastrophic failure to launch in its first year, 2016.

Now, as this new school year begins, state officials are marching on with the same testing company. The state plans to spend an extra $12.5 million to hire ETS to handle parts of the testing previously handled by Questar.

“Testing, we’re learning, is very complex in terms of the number of things that one company is expected to do,” McQueen said. Learning is good. Testing is not teaching or learning.

“What we have created, I’m afraid, is a culture of testing instead of a culture of teaching,” Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, told McQueen in April.

The Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition pushed back, urging “education leaders and policymakers to press forward” with TNReady and “rebuild trust by staying the course.”

State officials and their multi-million-dollar, data-driven testing vendors have failed the TNReady test three years in a row.

It’s time for classroom educators to take over the state’s corporate testing system and turn it around.

-The Commercial Appeal