UPDATE: TN pencil-and-paper tests will take less time than onlin - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: TN pencil-and-paper tests will take less time than online testing

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State Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen. WSMV photo State Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen. WSMV photo
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: State Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen said her department is not blaming schools or individual school districts for the online testing crash that is forcing a return to the pencil and paper format.  "We take full responsibility," she told reporters in Nashville.  She also said she was hearing more "frustration" from Southeast Tennessee and Hamilton County than any other part of the state.  

In response to the state's reported $107 million, five-year contract with Measurement Incorporated, she said only $1.6 million had been paid so far, because the state is paying "as deliverable."  She said the current focus is to deliver paper-format tests to schools, which will take several days.  

The paper tests are expected to be no more than five consecutive days, running in two parts...one later this month, and the other in late April.  She says she's heard a lot of frustration, most of it coming from the southeastern part of Tennessee, including Hamilton County.

Responding to criticism that her department had been "arrogant" in dealing with school district concerns, she said her department had only tried to be helpful and supportive during the practice test process, and that school districts' investments in technology would prove to be beneficial in the long run.


PREVIOUS STORY:  A representative from TN Dept. of Education released this statement in an email saying they will not use online testing and will be using paper and pencil for the 2015-2016 school year. 

"Thank you for your patience as we faced technical challenges with the MIST platform this morning. At 8:25 a.m. CST the state’s vendor for TNReady, Measurement Incorporated, experienced a severe network outage, causing significant problems with the MIST platform. Like you, we are incredibly disappointed that the MIST platform was not accessible to schools across the state as the Part I testing window opened.

Shortly after learning about the issue, we advised that schools experiencing problems with the test discontinue testing, and return to their normal classes.

Throughout the 2015-16 school year, the department has continuously worked with Measurement Incorporated to strengthen the online testing platform. As a result of district feedback and through our efforts to collaborate, we have mitigated and eliminated many technical issues. The online platform has undergone many capacity tests, yielding actionable information to drive improvements. Following Break MIST Day last October, we’ve made significant investments in server capacity. As a follow up to our Jan. 12 capacity test, the department’s technology team also spent multiple weeks in the field visiting select districts around the state to reproduce system errors in a real-world, real-time situation to gather better diagnostic information. As a result of this continued analysis, we offered districts the option to move to paper testing as we saw continuing issues with how the platform interacted with districts’ infrastructure.

Unfortunately, issues have continued to arise with the online platform. The new nature of the issue this morning has highlighted the uncertainly around the stability of Measurement Inc.’s testing platform, MIST. 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. In the best interest of our students and to protect instructional time, we cannot continue with Measurement Incoporated’s online testing platform in its current state. Moving forward, during the 2015-16 school year TNReady will be administered via paper and pencil (both Part I and Part II).

We thank districts, schools, and teachers for their commitment and perseverance to move our students to a 21st century learning environment. We know this is what the real world requires. We understand and appreciate the investment of time, money, and effort it has taken to attain readiness.

As a result of a statewide shift to paper and pencil, we will delay and extend the Part I testing window. Measurement Incorporated is currently scheduling the printing and shipping of the paper tests, and the department will share the revised testing window with districts by Thursday of this week. We understand that the shift to paper and pencil testing has many scheduling implications for your schools, teachers, and students. We thank you for your patience and cooperation as we transition to a test medium that we are confident will allow all students to show what they know.

TNReady is designed to assess true student understanding and problem-solving abilities, not just basic memorization skills. Regardless of the medium of assessment, this new and improved test will provide schools, teachers, and parents with valuable information about our students college and career readiness."


PREVIOUS STORY: Tennessee's new online achievement test, "TNReady" failed to live up to its name on day one of testing.  Several school districts reported delays and crashes, often while students were in the middle of writing essays.  In Hamilton County, principals were forced to suspend testing, and return students to their regular schedule.  School officials hope to resume testing on Tuesday.

Several school districts reported delays and crashes, often while students were in the middle of writing essays.  In Hamilton County, principals were forced to suspend testing, and return students to their regular schedule.  School officials hope to resume testing on Tuesday.

TNReady has come under fire for its two-part testing schedule, spread out over a three month period.  More than one hundred Hamilton County families are opting out of TNReady. 

By mid-morning on Monday, Hamilton County's central office sent this message to principals: "The State has informed HCDE that the testing issues are on their side. Please stop testing at this time and resume a normal instructional day. Once the State has resolved their issues, we will notify the schools of the next step."

Some 150 Hamilton County families, mostly from Normal Park Museum Magnet School are opting out from the test, despite warnings from the Tennessee Department of Education.  The families tell Eyewitness News they believe in standardized testing, but not the length of the testing period, which requires testing periodically between February and May, with results reportedly not available until October. The state has threatened to put schools with less than 95% participation on a "needs improvement" list, but the parents say Normal Park's reputation is solid academically, and they're willing to take the risk.

In response, the state Department of Education issued this statement,"Because of the importance of annual assessment, we believe it is crucial for all students to take TCAP tests each year, including TNReady. State and federal law also requires student participation in state assessments. In fact, these statutes specifically reference the expectation that all students enrolled in public schools in Tennessee will complete annual assessments.

Given both the importance and legal obligation, our department’s policy is that parents may not opt a child out of participating in state assessments. Except for situations where the Tennessee General Assembly has specifically provided the right to opt out in the law, such as the family life curriculum, parents and/or students may not opt out of state academic standards or instructional programs, including assessments. 

It is fundamental to the future of Tennessee to ensure that every single student is on the path to success in college, careers, and life. We have an obligation to equip all of our students to pursue their dreams, and we look forward to continue to collaborate with Tennessee’s educators and families to achieve that goal."

Hamilton County Education president Dan Liner told Eyewitness News, "Teachers' greatest concern from all of the issues surrounding the TNReady fiasco is that test data used to determine their final evaluation scores will be unreliable.  While the Tennessee Board of Education decided last year that in the first year of the administration of TNReady, data from the this brand new test will comprise only 10% of teachers' overall evaluation, testing glitches and lack of standardization--including today's debacle and officials of the TDOE issuing the recommendation last week that students not use iPads to take the test and then later making the paper version available to all schools--are factors that cause the reliability of the data collected from the TNReady assessment to be questionable.  While 10% is not a huge percentage, it can be the difference in a teacher scoring a 4 (above expectations) or a 5 (significantly above expectations).  On the other hand, 10% can impact scores of 2 (below exectations) or 3 (at expectations). (A score of 2 raises a red flag!) These scores impact bonuses (for some teachers), tenure, career advancement, placement on a performance improvement plan (PIP), and recommendation for not being retained.  Unreliable data cannot be used to make these determinations.

As the spokesperson for teachers, I have asked Hamilton County school board members to write a resolution that states that test scores will not be included in teachers' final evaluation scores.  Furthermore, I've asked that the resolution be presented to members of the Tennessee School Board, officials at the TDOE, and the legislative body representing Hamilton County in Nashville. Schools boards in Knox, Shelby, and Williamson Counties and Metro Nashville have already presented resolutions to these bodies. The Hamilton County BOE is the only body representing a large school district with 500+ teachers that has not made a public statement concerning using data from test scores as a part of teachers' final evaluation scores.

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