Tag Archives: tests

TN student testing time reduced by 30 percent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Education officials say changes in standardized testing in Tennessee are expected to reduce testing time for students and teachers by about 30 percent.

The state has cut the first part of spring standardized testing to create only one assessment window at the end of the school year, The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/2a3kAh5) reported.

The changes stem from the Tennessee Department of Education’s two-year, $60 million contract with Minnesota-based Questar Assessment, which was finalized Thursday.

The changes mean that in grades 3-8, students will spend about three-and-a-half hours less time on state-mandated standardized testing each year. High school students will also see a cut in year-end tests with a typical 11th-grader seeing about the same reduction in testing time. Continue reading

State picks Questar for new student testing contract

News release from state Department of Education
NASHVILLE — Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today that the department intends to award Questar, a national leader in large-scale assessment, a contract to develop and administer Tennessee’s annual state assessments for the 2016-17 school year.

In addition, McQueen announced that Tennessee will phase in online administration over multiple years to ensure state, district, and vendor technology readiness. For the upcoming school year, the state assessment for grades 3–8 will be administered via paper and pencil. However, the department will work closely with Questar to provide an online option for high school End of Course exams if both schools and the testing platform demonstrate early proof of successful online administration. Even if schools demonstrate readiness for online administration, districts will still have the option to choose paper and pencil assessments for their high school students. Continue reading

Pearson gets contract to handle TNReady test scoring this year

Pearson Education has landed an $18.5 million contract with the state to score TNReady assessments this year, reports The Tennessean. The previous vendor company had been fired and state officials took advantage of a law that says the state can enter into non-competitive bidding in cases of emergencies arising from any unforeseen cause.

“After we terminated the contract with Measurement Inc. on April 27, we began quickly collaborating with state central procurement in securing an emergency vendor,” said Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. “It is usually done with someone that has prior experience in the state.”

Pearson previously administered the state’s standardized tests from 2003-14 and is used in Tennessee for an optional test in kindergarten through second grade.

“Pearson, known for scoring NAEP (The National Assessment of Educational Progress) for three decades, is currently partnering with 25 states across the country, including Kentucky, Virginia, and Indiana,” McQueen said in a letter to schools directors.

The company was also set to be the state’s test vendor through the PARCC Consortium, which administers a Common Core State Standards-aligned test, before lawmaker backlash led to the five-year, $108 million contract with Measurement Inc.

But that move didn’t work out for the state after Measurement Inc.’s online testing platform in February couldn’t meet the testing demand. The state switched to paper tests, but the company then couldn’t deliver all of the materials needed.

The state canceled its contract with the company in April and has paid about $1.6 million of the contract for the company to develop the tests. The state was expected to pay about $30 million of the $108 million contract with Measurement Inc. to score tests.

“The state budgeted a total of $30 million for Measurement Inc. this year; therefore at this point, we anticipate being well under budget on assessment (costs),” Department of Education spokeswoman Ashley Ball said in an email.

Note: A Department of Education handout on Pearson’s scoring process is HERE. An email sent by Education Commissioner Candice McQueen to school directors across the state, as provided to media by her office, is below. Continue reading

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.

Haslam offers teacher option: TNReady or Not

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced he would seek additional flexibility for teachers as the state continues its transition to the TNReady student assessment.

Under the proposal, teachers would have the choice to include or not to include student results from the 2015-2016 TNReady assessment in his or her evaluation score, which typically consists of multiple years of data. The proposal keeps student learning and accountability as factors in an educator’s evaluation while giving teachers the option to include this year’s results if the results benefit them. The governor will work with the General Assembly on specific language and a plan to move the proposal through the legislative process.
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Commissioner, testing firm at odds on TNReady problems

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A student-testing company’s president defended his firm Tuesday after Tennessee’s education commissioner said she no longer had confidence in its ability to administer a new academic assessment test online.

On Monday, state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered that students take the test, known as TNReady, using pencil and paper instead of online. This came after the test’s rollout proved disastrous, with students across the state unable to take it because of a computer networking failure, which state officials described as not being able to access the Internet.

McQueen said she still believes in the test itself and said online testing is the future.

Henry H. Scherich, president of North Carolina-based Measurement Inc., which developed TNReady, issued a statement Tuesday saying he was disappointed with the state for its decision to suspend online testing.
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Computer crash halts TNReady online tests — back to paper & pen

By Shelia Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee education officials say they no longer have faith that a brand new education assessment test known as TNReady can be administered online after a series of computer glitches, including one Monday that forced school officials across the state to halt testing on the first day of its rollout.

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen sent an email Monday afternoon to school directors across the state saying she is no longer confident in vendor Measurement Inc.’s ability to administer the test online consistently without it crashing. As a result, McQueen has ordered that students take the tests using pencil and paper.

Measurement Inc. is the North Carolina-based company that developed TNReady. Records show that the state awarded the company with a contract worth more than $107 million for work from 2015-2020. Company officials did not return a phone call seeking comment.

McQueen, in her email, said technical problems have occurred before Monday. But after the disastrous first-day rollout with computer-networking glitches, the education commissioner said she didn’t expect the network to perform well consistently. A number of schools systems across the state had problems taking the test earlier in the day; however, it’s not clear how many were affected.

“In the best interest of our students and to protect instructional time, we cannot continue with Measurement Incorporated’s online testing platform in its current state,” McQueen wrote.

This is the first year students were supposed to take an assessment test online.

TNReady assesses math and English skills for grades 3-11. It replaces the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, known as TCAP tests. Supporters say it does a better job of assessing critical-thinking skills than the previous test.

Drug tests for welfare: 65 positives, 116 drop application

A Tennessee law requiring drug screening and testing of those applying for welfare benefits has yielded few positives for illicit drugs, reports The Tennessean. But scores of people have walked away from the application process.

Just 65 of 39,121 people applying for a cash assistance program known as Families First in Tennessee tested positive for illegal substances or drugs for which they had no prescription since the law was implemented July 1, 2014, according to data provided by the Department of Human Services to The Tennessean.

An additional 116 refused to participate in an initial drug screening questionnaire, automatically disqualifying them for benefits.

The total cost of drug testing so far: $23,592.

Opponents of the drug testing requirement point to the small fraction of people testing positive for drugs — less than 1 percent of all applicants tested positive — as a sign the policy is a failure based on an unfair perception that poorer Tennesseans are more likely to abuse drugs.

“I thought the legislation when it passed was ridiculous,” said state Rep. Sherry Jones, a Nashville Democrat. “I still think it’s ridiculous. Obviously the numbers don’t justify the cost, and in other states that have done this program their numbers don’t justify this cost either.”

But Rep. Glen Casada, who voted in favor of the law, disagrees.

“When you add up the 116 (who refused to go through drug screening) to the 65 people (who failed a drug test), that’s 175 or 180 people no longer receiving taxpayer-funded support for illegal activities,” the Republican lawmaker said. “It’s a good investment that those who receive support at the largesse of taxpayers should not be using it to fund illegal activities.”

The average monthly benefit of the cash assistance program was $165 per month in December – or $1,980 per year. The 116 people who refused to take the test otherwise might have cost $230,000 each year, had they gone forward and otherwise qualified for benefits.

Boards, bill would stop use of test scores in teacher evaluations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville’s school board has joined Knox County Schools in calling for test scores to not be used for teacher evaluations this school year.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1PqXUQg ) reports that the Metro Nashville Public Schools Board unanimously voted Tuesday in favor of a resolution that urges state officials to either provide a waiver this year in using TNReady for teacher evaluations or allow districts to use only observation data for teacher evaluations.

School board member Jill Speering says she agrees with many teachers who have said that using TNReady scores in its first year is inappropriate.

The Knox County school board approved a similar resolution last month.

Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, has filed a bill asking for a two-year exemption of TNReady student growth scores on teacher evaluations.

More from an untested Rep. Holt on ‘unelected bureaucrats’ vs. elected officials

State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, has issued a lengthy follow-up commentary on his effort to take a state-mandated test with 8th grade students at an elementary school, which was rejected by county-level school system officials and state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen.

In the missive, Holt says he did, indeed, show up to take the test anyway, as promised, and was, indeed, turned down. He was invited to take a “practice test” at the county school board offices, which he considers “a sterilized environment,” but turned that down.

Holt’s full statement is below.
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