Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen today announced changes in the delivery of the TNReady assessment for the current school year and additional changes that will take effect beginning in the 2019-20 school year. The changes are a direct response to a report generated by the recent statewide listening tour that included roundtable conversations and online feedback from educators including teachers, testing coordinators and school administrators on how to make improvements to the assessment process.
“These are real solutions, some of which are already underway or will be implemented later this year, that will be felt by educators, students and parents across the state,” Haslam said. “Throughout the listening tour, the message from teachers was clear that we do not need to start over but rather do all we can to improve the delivery of TNReady. We think these changes will do just that and create a better testing experience for both students and teachers.”
The Department of Education has already made significant changes, including a successful verification of the testing platform involving roughly 50,000 students, ensuring quicker turnaround of results starting with the fall end-of-course assessments, and providing better educator training opportunities.
This is a “positive development” according to JC Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. “It is critical that the state continues to review on-the-ground data from districts, educators and students,” added Bowman.
The state will perform another large-scale verification test in the Spring to ensure readiness for the April administration window. Within the next week, Districts that participated will receive a score report for all students that took a practice test. These score reports will provide details about the specific standards that were captured in the practice test questions. “This feedback, which has never been available before, will help teachers further improve their instruction to meet their students’ needs” Bowman pointed out.
Additional changes for the 2018-19 school year include earlier access to test administration documents; clarity and consistency in the test administration documents; less paper to manage by combining materials; fewer assessment subparts; and a more responsive help desk.
“Making continuous improvements based on educator feedback is what will make our testing program work for every teacher and student in Tennessee,” McQueen said. “We are grateful to the teachers, testing coordinators and administrators that shared their ideas with us, and we feel confident that these steps we are announcing today will result in smoother test delivery and feedback that will support greater student success.”
As the department begins the process of selecting a testing vendor for the 2019-20 school year, the Governor laid out five additional specific steps the state plans to take to address long-term concerns learned through the listening tour process.
Those steps include:
1) Greater access to technology by pursuing implementation of the Tennessee Student Technology Enrichment Program (TNSTEP) to provide school districts with more affordable options for obtaining technology devices.
2) Smarter delivery of the assessments based on grade levels. Grades 3-4 testing will remain paper only; grades 5-8 will continue testing science online and other subject areas will move online upon vendor demonstrating readiness; and high school end-of-course assessments will be administered online, but the state will explore offering reading passages in paper copy.
3) Faster results will be delivered to teachers and families as priority will be given to an assessment vendor that can provide electronic delivery by creating an online login once scores are available.
4) Better preparation will be available by providing additional TNReady practice test items to teachers and students and by pursuing an option that would allow districts to deliver optional benchmarks tests that mirror TNReady.
5) More Tennessee partnerships will be established by awarding additional credit during the procurement process to a vendor that plans to partner with Tennessee companies and universities as part of test development and administration.
In addition to implementing feedback from the listening tour, the multi-phase plan to improve delivery of TNReady includes refining the requirements for the assessment vendor that will be identified through a new request for proposals (RFP) this year, providing on-the-ground oversight of the fall test administration, and developing further opportunities for feedback from educators and stakeholders.
“It is a bit surprising that the Haslam Administration is proceeding with an RFP just before the November 6 election when lame duck Governor Haslam’s successor will be elected,” Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill pointed out. “The new Administration should be actively engaged in the process before an RFP is issued, particularly since they will be the ones implementing it. And any RFP should be carefully reviewed by experts and in consultation with Legislative leadership,” added Gill.
Read the report: