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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TEA Calls for Statewide School Closure, Canceling TNReady

Even as Gov. Bill Lee has called on schools across Tennessee to close as soon as possible to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus, Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn in her most recent guidance suggested that TNReady testing would continue. Now, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) is calling on the state to release a plan to both cancel TNReady and protect educators and staff who may be impacted by the closure.

Here’s the TEA press release:

“As concerns about the spread of COVID-19 rapidly increases statewide, we are relieved to see Gov. Bill Lee take decisive action to protect students, educators and families. The Tennessee Education Association supports the call for an immediate closure of our public schools statewide.

The Center for Disease Control and other federal agencies have issued guidance that gatherings of more than 50 people must be avoided to slow the spread of this dangerous virus. With that direction, it is irresponsible to keep our public schools open. If it is no longer safe for the General Assembly to conduct business with the public present, it is no longer safe for our schools to remain open.

It is critical that the state implement a plan to ensure students’ needs are met and educators are not harmed during a statewide closure. Many Tennessee students face food insecurity at home and rely on their school for a hot meal each day. Many students are also without computer or internet access at home, and thus unable to participate in distance learning. The Tennessee Department of Education must act quickly to address these concerns and work to identify a solution to protect our students.

The state’s plan must also include protections for educators during a statewide closure. No educator should be forced to use sick time or go unpaid while the state copes with a global pandemic, this especially includes education support professionals. Local school districts are the largest employer in many communities. A disruption in pay for educators would significantly increase the financial impact of the pandemic in Tennessee.

TEA is also concerned about the upcoming TNReady testing window. The Tennessee Department of Education’s recent letter to directors of schools indicated TNReady testing will continue as planned. Tennessee students and educators are dealing with increased stress and uncertainty following the devastating storms in Middle Tennessee and now a global health crisis. It is inappropriate to move forward with TNReady testing this year.

The Tennessee Education Association is calling on the Lee administration and the Tennessee General Assembly to cancel all TNReady testing and the portfolio evaluation system for this school year. There will be a significant loss of classroom time for students, and the continuity of instruction critical to building knowledge will be disrupted. Continuing with state high-stakes testing, or the time-consuming portfolio system used in Kindergarten and related arts, will only be setting our students and teachers up to fail.

The U.S. Department of Education has already released guidance stating it will consider waiving requirements for state-wide tests.

The Tennessee Department of Education and our state legislature must prioritize the health and well-being of students, educators and families. With that priority in mind the decision is simple to close all public schools, and cancel TNReady testing and the portfolio evaluation system. It would provide needed relief in this health crisis.”

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Coronavirus Extends Spring Breaks

As more information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) becomes available, school districts around the state are extending their Spring Breaks or otherwise canceling school functions and events. Here’s an example from Sumner County:


Sumner County Schools will extend spring break an additional week, March 23-27. We are taking this proactive step to help keep our school community healthy and safe. We will continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation closely based on information provided by the National Institute of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and the Tennessee Department of Health. We encourage you to visit our website or Facebook page for the most current information.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has new information/guidance available here.


Starting March 16th, the Department of Education COVID-19 hotline is available for district leaders 629-888-5898 or toll free 833-947-2115. The hotline is available Monday-Friday 6:30 am – 4:30pm CT
Tennessee Department of Health has launched a Tennessee Coronavirus Public Information Line in partnership with the Tennessee Poison Center. The hotline number is 877-857-2945 and will be available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT daily.


COVID-19 coronavirus is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) virus. Stopping transmission (spread) of the virus through everyday practices is the best way to keep people healthy. 
State health officials are currently taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Tennessee. Schools can play a key role in this effort. Through collaboration and coordination with local health departments, schools can take steps to disseminate information about the disease and its potential transmission within their school community.  

However, the Department and Commissioner Schwinn are still insisting the state proceed with the annual TNReady testing.

What is your district doing regarding Coronavirus? Let us know!!

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Penny on TNReady and COVID-19

Here’s a letter Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn sent to Directors of Schools regarding Coronavirus, testing, and school attendance/school closures. In short, she’s not going to make any decisions or take any leadership role.

Schwinn does not seem ready to ask the legislature to waive the tests or to recommend closing schools or to advocate for any emergency measures. This insistence on continuing to test comes despite federal guidance suggesting that states could very well receive waivers from testing mandates:


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.  

So, we could have a Commissioner asking for a waiver. And, we could be taking steps to close schools or waive the 180 day attendance requirement. We’re just … not.

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Coronavirus and TNReady

Is it time to cancel TNReady testing in light of concerns over COVID-19? The federal government seems to at least allow for states to make this call, according to a story in Chalkbeat.


States might be able to scrap their required annual tests for closed schools, the federal education department said Thursday, as concerns about the coronavirus swept the country


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.  

Not only could this be a relief for Directors of Schools facing a tough call, it could alleviate the strain of what has so far been a failed TNReady testing experiment.

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Penny’s Turnover

WPLN reports on more concerns being raised about Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and turnover in the department she leads. Here’s more:


It’s no secret that the agency is struggling to retain employees. According to data provided by the state, the turnover rate under Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s first nine months is about 18%.


Rep. Gary Hicks, R-Rogersville, told WPLN News he’s been hearing from people in his district about the issues within the state agency and about the concerns of the turnover rate.


“What we have to (do) as legislators is we just monitor the situation and try to figure out what those factors are that’s contributing to the rate that we are seeing,” Hicks said.


Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, worries about the institutional knowledge in the agency.


“We do have concerns because of the amount of turnover, many from the institutional knowledge that we depend on to get answers,” White, the chairman of the House Education Committee, told WPLN News on Friday.

Earlier concerns raised by department insiders include a lack of readiness for this year’s administration of the TNReady test:


An employee still with the department sums up her concerns by saying, “There is a complete lack of urgency or understanding regarding the human resource needs to launch an effective assessment in support of the districts, schools, teachers, students and parents of Tennessee.”

The legislature reconvenes on January 14th. It will be interesting to see how these concerns are expressed.

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