Tennessee Approves Bill Giving Educators Power to Choose How to Use State Testing Results

Published May 17, 2016

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has signed into law a bill giving teachers and schools the choice of whether to use state testing results in their faculty evaluations.

The state’s standardized test for primary and secondary school students, known as TNReady, has been mired in controversy since it debuted in February 2016. Students, teachers, parents, and administrators have expressed frustration over the state assessment, which was supposed to be taken online but was so fraught with technical glitches the testing system crashed.

The company handling TNReady’s online test delivery system, Measurement Inc., also failed to get paper tests to the students by the established deadline. Tennessee has since canceled its contract with the company.

Senate Bill 2508, passed in April 2016, provides teachers and principals the option not to include student growth data during a three-year transition period, between 2015 and 2018. Educators will likely choose not to report the data if the scores reflect poorly on them.

Activism from the School Boards

Jessica Fogarty, a mother and a member of the Tullahoma City School Board, says the currently untested TNReady test does not provide a valid assessment of students or teachers.

“Scores are not given in time to be useful on any level,” Fogarty said. “We are also not confident in the validity of the test, the appropriateness of the questions, and the way in which it is evaluated.”

Collier Smith, a Murfreesboro School Board member, has a daughter in the 4th grade who has taken the TNReady test. Smith says she thinks her daughter has received more standardized testing than her children in middle and high school.

“My own daughter could tell it wouldn’t work,” Smith said.

Little Kids or Guinea Pigs?

Bob Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing says TNReady “is a part of a pattern of different failures” of tests all over the country.

“These tests are not always ready for primetime [when they are implemented],” Schaeffer said.

“There is no alpha testing, no beta testing, and there are failures at every stage of the process,” Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer says TNReady and other tests like it are deeply flawed. Schaeffer says legislation such as SB 2508 will prevent the government from subjecting “little kids to be guinea pigs for an unproven method [of testing],” Schaeffer said.

Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.