by Brian Washington
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Tennessee educators are responding after state leaders have suspended testing for the school year following a host of technical problems brought about by a new digital exam system.
Glitches with the new system forced many school districts to revert back to pencil and paper exams, and, even then, there were still problems. In many instances, those materials arrived late or they never showed up, causing the suspension of testing for grades 3 through 8.
In addition to suspending tests, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen also announced that the state is severing ties with the vendor behind the digital exam, Measurement Inc.
Barbara Gray, an assistant principal in Shelby County, and president of the Tennessee Education Association, which represents thousands of educators across the state, said the state’s action comes a little late.
“Tennessee teachers and students have lost countless hours of instruction time this school year preparing for the new TNReady assessment,” said Gray. “The call to cancel this year’s test should have come more than two months ago when the first phase was such a disaster.”
The state is too focused on testing that it overlooked the opportunity to salvage what was left of the school year and let teachers get back to educating our students. Instead, the state placed gathering data above the best interests of Tennessee children. Moving forward, we have serious concerns about the state’s ability to find a new vendor and have an assessment ready to go next school year. It is time to slow way down on the state’s testing craze and make sure we are doing what is best for our students.
With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal law that replaced No Child Left Behind, Gray says the state of Tennessee has an opportunity take a second look at how it measures student learning and growth.
“The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act at the federal level gives Tennessee a chance to reevaluate how it measures student and teacher performance,” said Gray.
“The new law (ESSA) allows for the development of innovative assessments, giving states a way out of the test-and-punish system we have operated under for many years. It will also allow us to look at other success indicators, as opposed to relying on a single test to determine if a school is meeting students’ needs,” Gray continued.
“We have the opportunity now to not just continue with the way things have always been done, but instead explore the opportunities afforded to us through ESSA to make sure every student receives a quality education.”