Waive Bye to TNReady

Sumner County seems likely to join a growing list of Tennessee school districts asking the state to waive TNReady and teacher evaluation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Board member Ted Wise posted his thoughts ahead of the vote tomorrow night:

In my twelve years on the school board, I have been guided by one statement, FOR THE CHILDREN!

As we face COVID together, it is important that our teachers and principals can focus on the needs of our children. Now is not the time to worry about high stakes tests or completing evaluations.

Our children deserve our best during these times. Our teachers and principals work tirelessly to help them. Let’s work together to take the burden off of our teachers and principals.

Our Board will vote on Tuesday to ask the state to waive high stakes testing for this school year.

I will vote on Tuesday night to do what I have always tried to do on our school board, support our children, our teachers, and our principals.

Will Gov. Lee and Commissioner Schwinn take action?

Waiver Request

Williamson County School Board member Eric Welch took to Facebook to announce the district is asking Gov. Bill Lee to waive TNReady testing requirements as well the 180 day attendance and 6.5 hour instructional day mandates.

Here’s the post:

Superintendent Golden has submitted a letter to Governor Bill Lee formally requesting waivers of certain statutory requirements for the 2020-21 school year.

Williamson County Schools is urging Gov. Lee to ensure that the district, schools, teachers and students are held harmless from testing requirements and accountability measures and to waive TCAP tests, Including but not limited to TNReady assessments, English learner assessments, alternate TCAP assessments, and EOC exams.

WCS requests a waiver of the 180 days of classroom instruction requirement. We recognize many students may need to be absent due to quarantine or illness, and we may find it to be in the best interest of the students and families to shorten the school year.

WCS also requests a waiver of the 6.5 hours instructional time each academic day. WCS can continue to provide rigorous education while teaching scope & sequence without requiring teachers and students meet in a remote setting for 6.5 hours each academic day.

WCS Parents, other Williamson County residents and Tennesseans across our great state that have an opinion on this matter and wish to share it with Governor Lee may do so through his office at:
https://www.tn.gov/governor/contact-us.html

TEA Joins Call to #CancelTNReady

The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) has joined district leaders and others from across the state in calling on Tennessee to cancel the 2020-21 administration of TNReady testing and the teacher evaluation tied to those tests in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s more from a press release:

District leaders, educators and parents are grappling with what the 2020-2021 school year will look like for Tennessee students. TEA’s priority is always the health, safety and welfare of students and educators. There are other critical issues TEA is working on as plans to resume school are finalized.

TEA calls for a moratorium on state mandated testing for the 2020-2021 school year. 

“In a normal year, TNReady is a deeply flawed measure of academic achievement and teacher performance,” said TEA President Beth Brown. “Educators and students already face many new challenges and additional stress in the coming year, it would be unfair and inappropriate to put them through the state’s high-stakes summative testing system. Moreover, because of the wide disruption in instruction there will be no validity or reliability in TNReady data.”    

Teachers already measure student progress through grading assignments and teacher-created tests that are valid as any accountability system. Many Tennessee teachers also use state approved benchmark assessments that provide important data to inform instruction and gauge student needs.   

“Assessments, both benchmark and those created by teachers, are valuable tools because they are designed or chosen by education professionals closest to the classroom,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, that is not what we have with TNReady. Additionally, the millions allocated for state testing could be better spent implementing safety measures and increasing the number of school nurses.”

TEA calls for a suspension of the teacher evaluation system for the 2020-2021 school year. 

With the possibility of some students learning in-person, some online and others in a hybrid format, there is no way to effectively implement the TEAM rubric or other teacher evaluation models. There is not a single teacher evaluation model approved by the State Board of Education that is valid and reliable in this educational environment. Tennessee teachers need support, encouragement and flexibility as we navigate teaching in a pandemic.

TEA members and staff are advocating at the local level to ensure class size, duty free lunch and planning time mandates are upheld and not included in local waiver requests to the state. 

Enforcing social distancing, proper hygiene, and wearing masks where appropriate and possible will be essential in preventing the spread of the coronavirus in school buildings. All these important steps will already be a tremendous challenge with existing class sizes. We cannot keep students and educators safe while also increasing class sizes.

Regardless of the learning model adopted by a district, educators will inevitably have increased workloads. Planning for virtual learning or a combination of in-person and online instruction will require additional planning time and resources. Educators are already being asked to do more with less. They should not be asked to give up their right to necessary planning time and the ability to eat lunch. 

“I understand this is an incredibly challenging time and district leaders must make some difficult decisions as we draw closer to the start of a new school year. On behalf of Tennessee’s hardworking educators, TEA is imploring district and state leaders to prioritize the health and wellbeing of students and educators, and their teaching and learning environment,” Brown said.

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#CancelTNReady

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, calls are rising for the State of Tennessee to cancel the annual student assessment known as TNReady. If followed, this would be the second consecutive year the test did not happen. TNReady has a troubled history, with three testing vendors over five years and a slew of problems.

Here’s more on the latest debate from Chalkbeat:

Tennessee’s simmering debate over standardized testing is heating up during the pandemic as key education groups clash over whether the state should remove the burden of testing from school communities for a second straight year.

Groups began lining up both for and against testing after Superintendent Joris Ray, who leads the state’s largest district in Memphis, announced Monday that he will petition Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn to take steps to drop the annual assessment known as TNReady in 2020-21

In addition to Ray, the Tennessee Education Association has expressed support for suspending the test in the coming year.

Meanwhile, pro-testing lobby group SCORE continues to push a narrative that says the failed test is a necessary tool:

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Testing, Texas Style

Dale Chu reports that Tennessee is taking a Texas-like approach when it comes to testing in the age of COVID-19. Here’s more:

Last month, Texas made assessment headlines when they offered optional, end-of-year assessments to districts and families free of charge in response to the cancellation of spring testing and the anticipated drag on student performance caused by the pandemic. Not to be outdone, Tennessee just made a similar announcement, albeit aimed at schools and districts rather than individual students and families, that includes three options: a beginning of year readiness test, an item bank for the creation of customized tests, and a full length mock assessment.

Testing-1-2-3 readers may recall that Tennessee has earned some notoriety in recent years for playing a particularly vigorous game of musical chairs vis-a-vis their state assessment, with Pearson being the state’s third testing vendor in a five year period. The tumult in the Volunteer State means that Penny Schwinn, the state’s newish education commissioner, has her work cut out in trying to re-establish the assessment system’s credibility; making these resources available free-of-charge could help to broker some good will.

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Trump vs. TNReady

While the Tennessee General Assembly voted to give Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn broad powers to waive TNReady testing, President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made clear that standardized testing will not be required this year in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. More from Chalkbeat:


Schools will not have to administer federally required tests this year, President Trump and the U.S. Department of Education announced Friday — an unprecedented but unsurprising move in the wake of widespread school closures due to the new coronavirus. 


“Students need to be focused on staying healthy and continuing to learn. Teachers need to be able to focus on remote learning and other adaptations,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “Neither students nor teachers need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time.”


The education department said that, “upon proper request,” it would grant a waiver to any state not able to assess students because schools are closed due to concerns about the new coronavirus. The department directed states to fill out a “streamlined” application form on its website.

To be clear, the legislation passed in Tennessee allows local school districts to request waivers from TNReady. They may also administer the tests if they so choose, though so far, no district has openly suggested they plan to administer the tests.

In fact, Hamilton County Schools are closed through April 13th and Montgomery County announced closure through May 1st. Both of those dates make TNReady testing virtually impossible. At the least, they’d render any test results of little to no value.

Is your district planning to use TNReady this year? Let TNEdReport know!

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Everything is Waived

Legislators today are advancing a bill that would grant the Commissioner of Education broad authority to waive various requirements related to public schools in light of the advancing Coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes waiving TNReady testing, the 180 day attendance requirement, and portfolio and value-added evaluation of teachers, among other items.

Here’s more on what’s included from Chalkbeat:


For the 2019-20 school year, other provisions of the proposal would:


Ensure that districts receive full state funding for the school year, even if students cannot be present;


Drop the requirement that high school students must pass a civics test to graduate;


Drop the requirement that 11th-graders take an exam to assess their readiness for college;


Require the state Board of Education to revise requirements so that no senior who is on track and eligible would be prevented from graduating on time because of school closings.

The move comes as districts across the state are announcing closures well into April. Currently, the latest announced closure is Hamilton County (April 13th).

As of this morning, the legislation was moved to the full House Education Committee.

Here’s a bill summary:


And here’s a response from Commissioner Schwinn:

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RESOLVED: End TNReady

While reports indicate Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn has asked the US Department of Education for a waiver to TNReady testing requirements, the Columbia Daily Herald reports state Rep. Scott Cepicky is pushing for action on the issue.


State Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Columbia, called on Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Education on Monday to end the state’s annual standardized testing cycle.


“These are perilous times,” Cepikcy said in the letter. “Tennessee has unique circumstances as a result of devastating tornadoes and COVID-19. We cannot be certain that our state will not require additional school closings during the entire testing widow. However, Tennessee can’t administer assessments that are reliable and valid during this academic year.”

The federal Department of Education has issued guidance suggesting they will grant such waiver requests:


Guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education says it will consider waiving requirements for state-wide tests, currently mandated in grades 3-8 and once in high school. State testing occurs throughout the spring, and some school closures were already running into planned testing windows.  

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The End of TNReady

GOP Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison tweeted today that legislators and ostensibly state education policy leaders are working with the federal government to address the issue of TNReady and EOC tests in the age of Coronavirus. This comes after Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn indicated TNReady tests would likely continue absent legislative intervention.

Here’s Faison’s tweet:

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education has indicated they are willing to grant waivers to testing requirements in light of the national emergency of COVID-19:


Guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education says it will consider waiving requirements for state-wide tests, currently mandated in grades 3-8 and once in high school. State testing occurs throughout the spring, and some school closures were already running into planned testing windows.  

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April 13th

So far, April 13th is the latest date a Tennessee school district will be closed due to concerns over COVID-19 (Coronavirus). This according to a story in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.


“As the response to COVID-19 evolves, I urge every school district to close as soon as practically possible, with all schools expected to close by Friday, March 20, 2020 at the latest. Schools should remain closed through March 31, 2020 to further mitigate the spread of this infectious disease and we will issue further guidance prior to March 31,” Lee said in a statement issued Monday morning.


In response, Hamilton County Schools sent out an email to parents Monday stating schools would be closed through April 13. Last week, the school district announced it would be closed until March 30 starting on Monday, March 16, in the wake of increased concerns about the COVID-19 virus.

At the same time, the Tennessee Education Association is calling for a cancellation of TNReady testing and for measures that would protect teachers and education support staff going forward.

Meanwhile, the last word from Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn is that TNReady testing will continue this year.

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