TNReady still unready

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee education officials are preparing for the possibility that some students won’t be able to take the new achievement tests this year after the latest problem with the assessment, state officials said Friday.

It’s getting close to the end of the school year and some students in lower grades have yet to receive materials so they can take the new achievement test known as TNReady, state officials said. It’s the latest debacle with the rollout of an assessment that was supposed to be far better at gaging a student’s academic and critical thinking skills.

The test was originally supposed to be administered to students online. But after computer glitches prevented some kids from taking the test on the first day of the rollout in February, state education officials said kids would take the TNReady test the old-fashioned way, using paper and pencil.

The problem now is that some kids in grades 3-8 have not yet received the testing materials, said Ashley Ball, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education. And Measurement Inc., the North Carolina-based company contracted to design and administer the test, can’t tell school officials when they will be able to get the assessment materials to the students, she said.

“We are still discussing appropriate next steps to respond to this delay, and we, like many educators, remain very frustrated that (the company) has put us in this position,” Ball said.

The state Department of Education is in talks with federal education officials, school districts and the governor’s office to figure out what to do if kids can’t take the test.

Gov. Bill Haslam, during a press conference Friday on this year’s legislative session, was critical of the company after the latest problem.

“To say their performance has been dismal would be generous,” Haslam said.

An email sent to a spokeswoman for Measurement Inc. was not immediately returned.

The state awarded the company with a contract of more than $107 million for work from 2015 to 2020. State officials say they have paid only $1.6 million of that contract to the company for development of the test and will not pay any extra money for the failures.

Educators are still hoping the kids get the testing materials in time. But officials, mindful that students have a lot of field days, outings and other fun programs planned for the end of school year, said they will not ruin those experiences for them and will not test after May 10.