Tag Archives: testing

TEMA apologizes for foulup in emergency test

Patrick Sheehan, head of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. apologized Thursday after emergency alerts were sent to mobile devices across the state during testing — and some were not labeled as tests.

Text of statement from TEAM Director Patrick Sheehan, emailed to media
“Today the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency conducted a statewide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts to mobile devices. The purpose of the test was to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the system to address the public during times of emergency. The purpose of this system is essential to ensure we can communicate to save lives and protect property. We timed today’s test to coincide with the beginning of National Preparedness Month and it was designed to have limited impact on the public.

“TEMA spent the last several weeks working with our partners, EAS participants across the state , and the public to prepare for today’s test. Unfortunately, during today’s test we learned valuable lessons about the Emergency Alert System, our protocols, and areas to improve on the delivery of these types of alerts in the future.”

“We have received calls and messages from hundreds of Tennesseans letting us know about problems with receiving messages and the concerns caused by the messages received. In many instances the caveats that the message was part of a test were not received, making it seem like an emergency was imminent. While many are understanding, knowing that we need to test our systems, many have voiced their concerns about the angst this test cause. Please accept my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience today’s test caused.

“In the coming days and weeks TEMA will be reevaluating our protocols and systems. We will not be conducting any public tests of the system in the foreseeable future.

We do these tests to make certain we know about problems before we need the systems. In this regard alone, this test has been very valuable.

Again, please accept my apologies on behalf of TEMA and my gratitude for your patience and understanding.

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.

TNReady contract terminated

News release from state Department of Education
NASHVILLE— Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today the department will terminate its statewide testing contract with Measurement Inc., effective immediately. While high school testing will continue as planned, the state will suspend grade 3-8 testing during the 2015-16 school year due to Measurement Inc.’s inability to deliver all testing materials.

After revising their shipping schedule for a third time this month, the state’s testing vendor, Measurement Inc., failed to meet its most recent deadline. As of this morning, all districts were still waiting on some grade 3-8 materials to arrive with a total of two million documents yet to be shipped. In February, the department was forced to move from the originally planned online assessment delivery to a paper-based format due to the failure of the vendor’s online platform.

“Measurement Inc.’s performance is deeply disappointing. We’ve exhausted every option in problem solving with this vendor to assist them in getting these tests delivered,” Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “Districts have exceeded their responsibility and obligation to wait for grade 3-8 materials, and we will not ask districts to continue waiting on a vendor that has repeatedly failed us.”
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Lamar: TNReady troubles are Obama’s fault

OK, so the headline is a somewhat an exaggeration. Here’s the WPLN report:

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says federal interference could be at fault for the state’s continued delays in standardized testing. He spoke at Belmont University Monday about passing his fix to the No Child Left Behind law. He also addressed Tennessee’s problems moving to a new test.

TNReady wasn’t the original plan. Tennessee was supposed to use the PARCC test that goes along with Common Core classroom standards. But when lawmakers decided to back away from Common Core, they also decided to go with a new test — even though that meant hiring a company for $107 million to design a new one.

Senator Alexander chairs the education committee and previously served as the country’s top education official. But he blames the feds.

“You had the backlash to Common Core, so you had to change Common Core,” he said during a presentation to students and education officials. “Then you had to change the assessment. Well you can’t just do that overnight, and it costs a lot of money. And a lot of that was because people felt like Washington was telling Tennessee what its standards and tests ought to be.”

At the moment, state education officials are primarily pointing fingers at the company hired to create TNReady. This week, Measurement Inc. said it could not guarantee that the paper tests would be delivered in time for students to take them by the state’s deadline of May 10.

Note: Alexander’s press release on his Belmont speech is below. Continue reading

More on TNReady being unready — but they’re trying

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of a North Carolina-based testing company said Monday that he can’t guarantee all students in Tennessee will receive the test on time.

Measurement Inc. president and CEO Henry “Hank” Scherich said his company is working furiously to get the new TNReady materials to students.

“I wish I could promise them,” Scherich said. He added they were doing everything humanly possible to get the tests to the students on time.

All of the students have at least some of the testing materials, he said, but the company has found itself scrambling to print and ship 5 million test booklets for Tennessee.

State education officials are preparing for the possibility that some students won’t be able to take the test. They announced last week that they were meeting with the U.S. Department of Education, Gov. Bill Haslam’s office and others to determine what to do.
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TN student testing hours to be cut next year

After weeks of hard conversations prompted by the rocky debut of Tennessee’s new assessment, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Monday that the state will reduce the number of hours that students spend taking TNReady in its second year.

Further from Chalkbeat Tennessee:

Beginning in 2016-17, the State Department of Education plans to scrap TNReady Part I in math and streamline the English portion of Part I, she said. Department officials will determine how many hours of testing the changes will save students in the coming weeks.

On average, third-graders this year will have spent 11.2 hours taking TNReady end-of-course tests; seventh-graders, 11.7 hours; and high school students, 12.3 hours. Educators, parents and students alike have said that that’s simply too many hours devoted to testing, especially considering the hours that students spend taking practice tests and screeners through the state’s 2-year-old Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI-squared) program.

“We’ve always maintained we had two goals: strengthen content and reduce testing time,” McQueen told reporters during a conference call.

The changes were announced before even the completion of the first year of TNReady testing and amid widespread criticism of the rollout of the state’s new standardized test,which was marred by technical problems and delays, as well as growing concerns about overtesting in Tennessee.

In addition to revising next year’s test to reduce testing time, McQueen said the department is working to ensure smoother administration of TNReady Part II this spring. The state is pre-printing tests to include students’ names and other identifying information. She said tests will be shipped to schools before the testing window begins on April 25.

The time spent testing in Tennessee classrooms has been at the center of the state’s nascent opt-out movement, as well as calls from districts to ditch TNReady altogether in favor of the ACT suite of tests, which take less time overall.

TN parents ‘opt-out’ of student testing

While the Tennessee Department of Education can’t provide statewide numbers, Chalkbeat reports that anecdotal evidence suggests that the opt-out wave is beginning to gain traction in Tennessee, a year after mass numbers of students refused tests in states including New York,Washington, and Colorado.

This week, almost half of students at one Chattanooga elementary school refused to take the TNReady test. Rep. Mike Stewart, a Democrat from Nashville, opted his child out. Social media is abuzz with parents seeking guidance on how to get their child out of testing, too. And a popular Tennessee-based blog (Momma Bears, HERE) has set forth a comprehensive guide for parents called “Choose to Refuse.”

Adding to momentum is the state’s rocky rollout of this year’s new test, which has been beset by technical problems and delays, causing parents and teachers to call into question the test’s legitimacy.

State officials insist that you can’t opt out of the state’s standardized tests, which are used to make decisions about schools and teachers — and are necessary for the state to receive federal funding, as well as know which schools and students need the most support. The tests are required, emphasizes State Department of Education spokeswoman Ashley Ball.

…While other states have opt-out policies, Tennessee has none, meaning students who want to skip the test have to refuse the test when their teacher hands it to them — a daunting step for students who have disabilities or are inclined to follow rules. At some schools, the refusers have been permitted to read; at other schools, students have to sit quietly. One mom in Chattanooga even reported her son had to sit on his hands for the duration of the exam earlier this week.

Schools are in a tricky position when faced with students opting out. Districts are not authorized to adopt policies allowing students to refuse the test, or to offer alternate activities such as study hall or computer lab, for students whose parents refuse to have them participate in state assessments.

And because there is no set policy, every parent has had a different journey to refusing the test in behalf of a child.

Lawsuit says kids removed from class to boost test scores

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a former Metro Nashville Public Schools student claiming high schools removed some kids from class to help inflate the district’s year-end exam scores.

The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/21LOo3E) the lawsuit was filed Monday by attorney Gary Blackburn. It says former Pearl-Cohn High School student Toni Jones was pulled out of algebra by an assistant principal after taking a predictive test to take remedial classes despite having a passing grade.

The Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County is listed as the defendant.

The lawsuit says Jones, and other students with similar experiences, were deprived of a “constitutionally protected property interest in her public education.” It says the end result was a negative impact to Jones’ education.

A Metro Schools spokeswoman couldn’t comment.

Rep. Holt barred from taking test with 8th grade students

State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dreseden, had been planning to take a test alongside students at an elementary school in his district, but says he has been told – first by state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, then by a school system administrator – that he’s not welcome. Holt is “completely shocked.”

News release, as posted on Holt’s Facebook page:

Tennessee State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) had planned to test alongside 8th grade English & Language Arts students today at Hillcrest Elementary School to address the concerns of hundreds of Northwest Tennessee parents and teachers that had contacted him regarding the new standards for the TN Ready standardized tests. Hours before Holt was scheduled to appear, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen contacted Holt and discouraged him from testing.

“I told Commissioner McQueen that I had a job to do,” said Holt. “When your constituents ask you to do something for them, you follow through. My only goal was to quietly walk in and take a seat off to the side and sit for the same exam in the same environment that our children are. After the exam was over, I wanted to talk to students and see how they felt about it. These are some our youngest constituents in the state. Their voice matters too.”

Shortly after Holt hung up the phone with McQueen after informing her that he would still be coming to the school, Holt received a phone call from the Obion County Schools administration telling him that they were not going to allow him to visit the school.
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Legislators worry that students can’t type fast enough for testing

Some Tennessee lawmakers worry young students won’t be ready to type out all their answers on the state’s new standardized test, known as TNReady, reports WPLN.

Senators aired their concerns at a hearing Tuesday as the Department of Education makes the switch from bubble sheets and number two pencils to keyboards and computers.

The concern has been that Tennessee school districts don’t have enough computers or Internet access to make the digital conversion. But now Sen. Joey Henlsey of Hohenwald wonders if kids have enough experience keyboarding.

State testing will start with third graders, and the writing portions have a time limit.

“Maybe they do know how to type,” Hensley said. “But I’ve got a 12-year-old, and I don’t think she can type very fast.”

Education officials have been piloting computer testing across the state. Last year, a practice writing assessment was given to some students by computer. Others used paper.

“There was very little difference in the scores of the students that did paper and pencil versus those who did it online,” said Tammy Shelton, executive director of content and resources.

Common Core standards do prescribe that students begin learning how to type correctly in elementary school. Shelton also says third and fourth graders won’t be expected to write much more than a paragraph in response to questions on the new test.