At the same time that Tennessee is struggling over a new state test, several education advocates are pushing for the exclusion of state test scores from teacher evaluations for this school year.
The advocact groups that have joined under the name Tennessee Strong began an online petition on Monday. The petition says:
"I oppose the use of TNReady data for the use of teacher evaluations for school year 2015-16 and urge the General Assembly and State Board of Education to provide a one year waiver."
In 2016, students will be given TNReady, the state's updated Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test for math and English in grades 3-11. Students' critical thinking skills will be assessed, and the online test will include more than just multiple choice questions.
Lawmakers passed the Tennessee Teaching Evaluation Enhancement Act (TCAP) earlier in the current year to impermanently limit the effect of state test scores on teachers' ratings. Student performance will still count on teachers' evaluations, but will vary.
If the TNReady data benefits the teacher, it will account for 35% of a teacher's rating. If not, the scores will account for 10% of the evaluation, and test information from 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 will account for 25%.
The rating process will also include in-class observation scores and students' proficiency on the TNReady test. Eventually, the percentage of student growth on TNReady will return to 35% of a teacher's rating.
The scores from TNReady can be excluded from a student's grade if they do not receive scores from the examination at least five days before the end of school. It is possible the results will be delayed since this is the first year that TNReady has been administered.
By Tuesday, the online petition had received 1,000 signatures. Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (MSCEA) Interim Executive Director Keith Williams said it made sense to put off using the test until it is valid. WREG-TV's Caitlin Alexander reports that MSCEA leaders are backing the petition.
"We have no problem with testing but the test must be fair, it must be valid if you're going to hold our students and educators accountable for it," said MSCEA President Patricia Scarborough.
As of now, teachers receive Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) scores to measure their impact on students, and part of that score is determined by students' results on the TCAP.
"This is the first year of a brand new state assessment, and so, there's even more concern especially from teachers statewide because it's a new assessment," said Tennessee Education Association (TEA) President Barbara Gray.
TEA also supported the petition.
County teachers are concerned that the TNReady assessments could lower their evaluations for reasons that did not have to do with their teaching or their children's learning. They told the Wilson County School Board on Monday that they hoped the board would pass a resolution waiving the 2015-2016 test scores as part of teacher evaluations.
This is the first time the testing will be done only on computers, says Connie Esh, writing for The Wilson Post. Many students cannot type well enough or fast enough to do well on the exam, according to Kristi Dunn, who represented the Wilson Teachers Association (WTA). Dunn added that 70 highly qualified Memphis teachers took the test, and only one teacher passed.
Director of Schools Dr. Donna Wright said that for the past two years, raises have been based on using the best scores from the last two years — and that for the past two years there have been issues with the scores' validity.