The Least Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s TNReady trouble time – an annual event in Tennessee

Ah, yes. It’s that time of year again. The time of TNReady troubles.

This year, of course, the TNReady issue is compounded with a new and ridiculous third grade retention law.

We’ll start there.

As a result of the devastating new law, third grade students who didn’t meet a certain score on the ELA portion of TNReady this year are subject to being held back. To avoid that fate, they can participate in summer school and possibly have a tutor in 4th grade.

If those options don’t work, or they don’t complete summer school, the student will repeat third grade.

Since the test had much higher stakes this year than normal, the TN Department of Education offered the opportunity for students to retake the test if they fell into the score category requiring retention.

Those retakes were set for this week.

Here’s how that went:

My district ran into tech issues today with the 3rd grade retest. Our kids sat for over an hour after trying unsuccessfully to log in.

This type of issue – a technical difficulty with accessing the test – happened in a number of districts across the state.

So, imagine being a third grader at the end of your school year. You find out you have to retake an 85 minute test you’ve already taken. If you don’t do well enough, you have to go to summer school and possibly repeat third grade.

No pressure at all, right?

Then you show up for your retake and you’re ready to go and you have to wait for an hour or two while some tech issues are worked out.

It doesn’t matter that you’ve waited and are now likely extra anxious. This is it.

This test counts. For a lot – especially in the life of a 9-year-old.


Of course, this isn’t the first time TNReady has had problems. In fact, just about every single year the test has been administered, there have been challenges.

This year, many districts did not receive the necessary scores in time to include them in student grades. Here’s how Clarksville-Montgomery County describes the situation:

CMCSS will not include the TCAP/EOC state standardized test results as part of students’ final grades this school year. In accordance with T.C.A. § 49-1-617 and District policy, students’ TCAP scores will not be included in their final spring semester grades if the scores are not received by the District at least five instructional days before the end of the academic year. CMCSS did not receive scores in time.

Although scores will not be included in semester grades, in accordance with state law, the third-grade ELA TCAP score, or retest score, is still being used to determine the pathways to fourth-grade promotion unless a student is exempt from third-grade retention. CMCSS received scores from the state last Friday afternoon and processed through the weekend. Families of students at-risk for retention began receiving communications last Sunday regarding the retest and next steps.

Here’s an update from Sumner County:

So, the scores don’t count for a student’s grades, but they can be used to determine whether or not a student needs to take another test in the last days of the academic year.


Not only are there recurring technical issues with TNReady, it is important to note what the test actually measures:

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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Test Data Given Added Weight in Teacher Evaluations

This year, teachers in Tennessee who teach in subjects that take state standardized tests (TNReady) will see the quantitative portion of their evaluation increase by 10%.

Previously, TNReady scores in tested subjects counted for 35% of a teacher’s evaluation score and “other achievement measures” accounted for 15%. The remaining 50% came from observation scores.

Under the new law and updated State Board of Education policy, “other achievement measures” will now account for 25% of a teacher’s evaluation. TNReady will still count for 35%. Observation scores are reduced to 40%.

Other achievement measures include items like ACT scores.

TNReady is a notoriously unreliable measure of both student achievement and teacher performance. In fact, the test is not even designed to evaluate teacher performance. Additionally, the value-added model used to assess teacher impact has repeatedly been called into question in terms of its validity.

It’s also noteworthy that just as more colleges are dropping standardized test scores from admissions requirements, Tennessee is placing stronger emphasis on them in teacher evaluation.

The disconnect between Tennessee education policy and reality continues to grow.

The Tennessee Education Association has noted its opposition to the move:

“We know that test scores have never been a valid measure of teacher effect and that our kids are more than a score,” said TEA President Tanya Coats. “TEA wholly disagrees with the state’s continued push to increase its reliance on test data over other methods of evaluation like observations that are more meaningful in improving our practice as educators.”

The move also comes as Tennessee is experiencing a teacher shortage:

For more on education policy and politics in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

TN PTA on Testing

As Governor-elect Bill Lee prepares to take office, the Tennessee Parent Teacher Association (PTA) outlines a position on state assessments, including calling for flexibility at the high school level to choose tests outside the TNReady framework.

Here’s the full position statement as adopted on November 3rd:

After continued problems with the electronic administration of standardized tests, the Tennessee PTA board of managers calls for the Tennessee Department of Education to establish reliable administration of online tests through proven piloted or implemented testing methods and platforms that do not impede the learning environment of students and educators.

 

The Tennessee PTA board of managers believes in testing accountability; however, missed class time and the lack of new material not introduced is a deterrent to student achievement and to the social emotional well-being of students and educators. We continue to support and educate parents to advocate for their children to be successful in school and in life.

 

The Tennessee PTA board of managers:

• Believes that high-quality assessments provide valuable information to parents, teachers, community and school leaders about the growth and achievement of their students.

• Considers that a test should be one of multiple tools used in a comprehensive assessment system to evaluate and assess student growth and learning.

• Believes the current methods in grades 3-8 TCAP and high school EOC (End-ofCourse) assessments as administered causes loss of quality instruction time in the classroom.

• Calls for the Tennessee Department of Education to establish an annual assessment that is aligned with relevant and rigorous state standards in English/Language Arts (ELA), Math, Science, and Social Studies. These assessments should also be aligned to multiple tools that elicit timely feedback to be shared with the students, educators, and parents.

• Believes it is important to keep the testing window narrow enough to ensure all Tennessee students are adequately assessed in a timely manner.

• Believes that school districts should have the flexibility to choose high school standardized assessments that align with the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks and meet Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) criteria for determining students to be college and career-ready.

 

The Tennessee PTA board of managers acknowledges the effort of the Tennessee Department of Education’s Third Task Force on Student Testing and Assessment, and is confident that with a collaborative and transparent process the Tennessee Department of Education will regain the trust and support of students, educators and parents.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport