The TNReady online student assessment tests had login delays, slow servers, and software bugs, according to an audit Tennessee Comptrollers released Wednesday.
As reported, earlier this year Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said TNReady “has had several hiccups” and that criticism of it “was earned.”
Auditors, however, went into more detail in their report.
“The first signs of trouble began on April 16, 2018 and continued through the end of the month,” auditors said in a press release.
“Auditors determined that many of these issues occurred primarily because of Questar Assessment, Inc’s performance and updates to the student assessment system. Auditors also found the Department of Education’s oversight of test administration fell short of expectations.”
The performance audit’s nine findings include five issues surrounding TNReady. These findings include:
• The department’s lack of sufficient, detailed information on its Work Plan with Questar rendered it less effective as a monitoring tool to ensure Questar met all deadlines.
• Questar’s decision to make an unauthorized change to text-to-speech software without formally notifying the department. This change contributed to the online testing disruptions.
• Questar’s failure to sufficiently staff customer support, resulting in lengthy call wait times and high rates of abandoned calls.
• A failure to track, document, and provide status updates to districts to let them know when students’ tests would be recovered, leaving districts unaware if their students completed the required tests.
• Inadequate evaluation and monitoring of internal controls implemented by external information technology service providers, such as Questar.
Over the course of the audit, the department and Questar worked constantly to address the issues that caused or contributed to the spring 2018 testing problems, according to auditors.
On Oct. 1 Questar and the department signed a contract amendment introducing new requirements and accountability measures for Questar. The department also made adjustments to improve its contract management, a press release said.
Comptrollers attached a document to their audit with more than 1,700 anonymous comments about TNReady from teachers around the state.
One comment said “teachers should have their manuals before the day of the test.”
Another said “teachers who actually taught TNReady classes had to search for directions.”
One teacher said “no one took time to show us the system or print the manuals, our guidance department did a horrible job of preparing the staff.”
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Justin Wilson” by Tennesse Comptroller of the Treasury.