Tennessee’s Haslam Exempts TNReady Results from Evaluations

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Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) has announced a proposal for legislation to make the inaugural TNReady tests count for teachers’ evaluation scores only if the ratings are positive after troubling rolling out the new tests.

The governor made this proposal after calls from districts and some lawmakers asking that teachers not be punished for scores that will no doubt be lower than normal due to a test that is more stringent than the previous assessments, writes Jennifer Pignolet of The Commercial Appeal.

The new test, which was developed to be taken online, suffered a software crash on the first day of being implemented last week. Now all students will be taking the tests using paper and pencil beginning next week.

The governor’s plan applies to this school year only and gives teachers the choice of whether to count the data or not.

“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 statement from Haslam’s office said.

The timing of the test, which assesses students in grades 3-11 across the state on math and English/language arts, has now been changed from beginning on Feb. 8 to starting on Feb. 22 and continuing until March 18. The Department of Education is sending the paper tests to districts and has requested that schools test one subject entirely in a single day districtwide.

Already, the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s teachers union, had asked for a three-year prohibition on assessing teachers by using TNReady, saying it would be “unfair and inappropriate” to do so.

After Haslam’s announcement, the union’s president, Barbara Gray, praised his resolution, but added that she would hope this same moratorium would apply to schools, since some would be in danger of state takeover because of the tests. She explained that the TEA will not stop arguing against using any student assessment information to measure teachers’ performance.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen noted that although students’ scores are expected to be lower, the scores will still be a valid measure of learners’ achievement compared to their counterparts across the state. The scores could also be a fair way to evaluate Tennessee’s teachers.

Currently, teachers are measured by student achievement, classroom observation, and growth scores. State officials had already given students exemptions from the THReady results based on the assessments being new.

The reasons for the glitches that stalled the online testing on February 8 were explained by McQueen to a joint meeting of the Tennessee Senate Education Committee and the Government Operations Committee on Wednesday. She stated that in spite of months of preparation, “multiple operational and procedural errors by Measurement, Inc.,” the developers and administrators of the test, and MIST, its online test-taking platform, overloaded the infrastructure.

Measurement, Inc. is a North Carolina-based company that was paid $1.6 million to develop Tennessee’s testing tools. McQueen stated that there would be no additional cost for preparing and mailing the paper tests. She continued by saying the state will begin a process over the next several weeks of reviewing its $108 million five-year agreement with the organization, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.