Legislators grill education commissioner on TNReady foulup

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen spent a lot of time Wednesday explaining what went wrong with the state’s $108 million TNReady contract for online testing of public school students, reports The Tennessean.

McQueen said she hopes to have a new contract in place within weeks… the department will not need any approval from lawmakers for the contract.

That alarmed Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, one of several lawmakers on the Fiscal Review Committee who repeatedly referred to the past year’s testing problems as a “debacle” and pressed McQueen and Mike Perry, Tennessee’s chief procurement officer, to explain what went wrong.

“My personal opinion is $105 million is a lot of money for an agency to be making a decision on without public scrutiny,” Gilmore said, citing the need for transparency after such a massive failure.

Rep. Tim Wirgau, R-Buchanan, said he had received a lot of feedback from constituents in his home district, who hold lawmakers accountable for the testing problems.

“We can’t be proud of this,” Wirgau said. “My question is: Did we move too fast making this transition? And now that we have had this debacle, are we trying to move too fast again?”

In response to repeated questions about what went wrong, McQueen outlined in detail the missteps leading to the canceled contract.

…”We believed by Feb. 8 most of those fixes had been done,” McQueen said. Then, she said, “multiple new problems” emerged on Feb. 8.

“At the end of the day, this was about a vendor who said they could do certain things and could not do those things,” she said.