The state announced Thursday steps to try and remedy problems with TNReady online testing after a series of failures this year that included students not being able to take the tests in a timely manner, and a cyber attack on the state’s system.
Locally, Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said there needs to be dependable and valid testing, which, so far, it has not been.
“It’s very hard, it’s very frustrating and it’s very hard to take seriously,” he said.
State Education Commissioner Candace McQueen said Thursday the state will rebid out for a new contractor or contractors to deliver the testing for the 2019-2020 school year and plans to look specifically for vendors who have had success in other states.
The current vendor, Questar, will remain for at least one more year, but will have a role of administering and scoring the test. Test design and development of the testing next year will be conducted by ETS, Educational Testing Service, which has successfully worked with Tennessee for several years, according to a press release.
McQueen said the state also plans on adjusting the pace of transitioning to online testing.
Next year, the state had planned on all students from elementary, middle and high schools to be taking tests online. Under the adjustment, high school students will now still test online and grades 3-8 will take math, English and social studies tests on paper. Grades 3-4 will take science tests on paper and 5-8 will be online.
The state education department said the science test portion, though, will not count for or against students, teachers or administrators and those scores would no be made public.
The state said this will allow students to take the tests in a “low-risk” environment.
“Teachers, students and families deserve a testing process they can have confidence in, and we are doing everything possible to meet that responsibility,” McQueen said in a statement. “We are always committed to listening and improving, and we’ll continue to do just that.”
Perry said Friday he was confident that McQueen is dedicated to improving the testing and the state realizes there’s a problem.
“I know there’s a high degree of focus on it, but there should have been focus on it this year,” he said.
For the last several years, there have been problems with state testing. Because of those problems, it has made it difficult to look at past data and try to improve on scores, Perry said.
It’s difficult for those who administrate the test and difficult for those who take the test, he said.
“I think it is extremely important to have a valid and reliable testing process in the state,” Perry said.