TNReady Online Testing Debuts, But Software Falters

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Schools in Tennessee began to administer a new high-stakes standardized accountability test called “TNReady” last week, only to find the test was not ready.  As a result, paper exams are being rushed out so that students can still take the test.

It’s not the first time that something like this has happened in Tennessee.  Problems with the online administration of the previously used standardized exam were highlighted during both the spring and winter testing season in 2015.

The state-mandated tests are given in an effort to hold teachers, students, and schools accountable for meeting federal education requirements.

TNReady was created to replace the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program.  Plans for the exam include complete online administration of the test.  According to the website for the state Education Department, the new and improved test would replace the TCAP tests for English language arts and math in grades 3-11 beginning in the 2015-16 school year.  The test is meant to offer more complete information relating to college and career readiness, writes Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post.

However, when the test was first administered at the start of the week, so many software outages were reported that testing came to a stop.  State education officials noted that the problems stemmed from the testing platform of Measurement, Inc., the vendor with which the state has a $107 million five-year contract, according to David Carroll for WRCB.

“Despite the many improvements the department has helped to make to the system in recent months and based on the events of this morning, we are not confident in the system’s ability to perform consistently,” state education commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement late Monday. “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.”

The vendor is currently gathering together paper and pencil versions of the exam so that students can take the test as planned.  Though originally set to be completed within the next month, additional time is being offered to accommodate schools due to the glitches.

The 2015 testing season found over a dozen states reporting issues with computer-administered Common Core-aligned tests.  At that time, the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing argued that the issues reinforced the belief that such technology was being rushed into implementation into schools who were not ready to accept and use them.

In a statement released earlier in the week, Tennessee Education Association President Barbara Gray referred to the outages as “unacceptable” and noted that high-stakes consequences, such as linking the results of standardized tests to teacher’s annual evaluations, should be avoided since the testing is experiencing so many flaws.  A number of states across the country have created such a link despite warnings from assessment experts not to do so.

Tennessee state officials replied to the statement by saying they had compromised on the issue by putting less weight onto the test results for use on teacher evaluations unless the results can significantly help an individual teacher.