Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell is calling for a special hearing on the state's testing issues. Nearly 10,000 TNReady tests were incorrectly scored.

It's the fifth glitch in the testing system in two years.

Beth Harwell said it's time for the state to step in. This week we learned around eight thousand tests were scored too low, another 1,400 scored too high.

Incorrectly scored tests have teachers, parents, and legislators wanting answers. “Questions of credibility, we don't want to have that. All this hearing is about is to let the commissioner and those who have concerns voice those concerns and an explanation given.”

Harwell said the incorrectly graded tests make up a very small portion of the 1.9 million tests taken during the 2016-17 school year. “Anything like that damages the credibility of with this contract. Certainly we want to have the opportunity for the legislature who appropriates this money to make sure it is being spent wisely.”

The latest issue is one of five mistakes over the last two years. Tests were delayed three times in 2016.  Then, last June, results were delayed, never making it on to student's report cards. Harwell wants steps in place to prevent this from happening again.

“We want to make sure the tests are fair. And going forward we have a contract that serves the state of Tennessee well.”

Beth Harwell said the hearing is expected within the next two weeks. If legislation is needed, Harwell will address the issue in January when Tennessee lawmakers return to Nashville. 

The local schools impacted by the incorrect scoring of TNReady tests were Lookout Valley Middle and High School, Red Bank High and Ivy Academy.

In Bradley County, Walker Valley High, Bradley Central High and Bradley County Virtual School were affected.

Hamilton County's long-term struggle to provide equity for all students is spotlighted in the first complete release of TNReady scores.  Most Hamilton County schools are in the middle of the pack, with an almost equal number of students who are considered below or approaching grade level, and those who are on track, or who have mastered their grade level studies.

Grades are listed statewide for districts and schools in English/Language Arts, Math, and Science.  

A quick snapshot of the English/Language arts scores reveals the Hamilton County schools with extremely high scores in this category are:

  • Apison (59.3) percent of students are on track or have mastered grade level studies)
  • CCA Middle (66.1)
  • CCA High (69.8)
  • Lookout Mountain Elementary (81.1)
  • Nolan Elementary (61.8)
  • CSLA Elementary (61.6)
  • CSLA Middle (58.5)
  • Signal Mountain Middle (58.8)
  • Signal Mountain High (65.4)
  • Thrasher (65.4)
  • Smith Elementary (60.9)
  • STEM School (67.5)

Most of these schools are either magnet schools with high parental involvement or neighborhood schools in relatively affluent areas.

On the other hand, Hamilton County schools in lower income areas struggled in the English/Language Arts subject area.  Brained High School's scores show that only 5.4 percent of students are on track, or have mastered their grade level studies.  

Other low scores include:

  • Orchard Knob Middle (6.2)
  • Donaldson Elementary (9.9)
  • Clifton Hills Elementary (7.1)
  • Dalewood Middle (9.7)
  • East Lake Elementary (9.5)
  • East Lake Academy (8.8)
  • Hardy Elementary (7.8)
  • Hillcrest Elementary (4.4)
  • Howard High (6.5)
  • Orchard Knob Elementary (8.7)
  • Woodmore Elementary (8.7)

Each of the lower scoring schools are now Opportunity Zone schools and are getting extra teaching help from the county and the state.

On a district level, again focusing on English and Language Arts, Hamilton County struggles when compared with the nearest large school district, Knox County.  In grades 3-5, Hamilton County results show 32.3 percent of students on grade level or above, compared to 40 percent for Knox County.  The gap widens for grades 6-8: Knox County leads Hamilton County by a margin of 39.9 to 31.2.

Among school districts surrounding Hamilton County, Bradley County shines with 39.7 percent of elementary students at grade level or above.  Athens City also excels at 40.2 percent.  Others include Meigs (33.9), Rhea (32.5), Cleveland (31.8), McMinn (29.4), Marion (27.8), Bledsoe (27.4), Sequatchie (26.2), and Grundy (22.9). 

Here is the release from the Tennessee Department of Education:

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen released all of the 2017 district- and school-level TNReady results today (link), highlighting that high school students showed across-the-board growth in all subject areas. All TNReady results have been finalized for the 0.1% of assessments where the performance level changed due to scoring issues.

These scores are the first complete set of results for TNReady, which is a more rigorous assessment that is aligned to Tennessee’s academic standards, and follow the release of state-level results earlier this year for both grades 3-8 and high school. Because it was the first year of TNReady for elementary and middle school students, their results set a new baseline for future growth, and achievement scores cannot be compared to past TCAP assessments. This was the second year high school students completed TNReady. Overall, these results provide families and educators with better information about what students know and are able to do, so they can support students’ readiness for their next step in their education journey – which is the goal of state assessments.

“We continue to be incredibly proud of the work our educators and students are doing each day, and TNReady provides us with one key feedback loop that we all can use to provide every student in Tennessee with a high-quality education,” McQueen said. “These results show us both where we can learn from schools that are excelling and where we have specific schools or student groups that need better support to help them achieve success – so they graduate from high school with the ability to choose their path in life. We are also particularly proud given what today’s results represent: providing families and educators with better information about students’ performance so they can help them improve.”

Today’s results are a key milestone in Tennessee education. In 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Tennessee an “F” for Truth in Advertising about students’ true reading and math abilities. At the time, there was a large disparity between what TCAP results showed – which was that about 90% of students were proficient – and what more rigorous benchmarks like the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) said, which was that only about 20-30% of Tennessee students were proficient. Nationally, Tennessee generally ranked among the bottom third of states in education achievement.

In response, Tennessee leaders and schools began improving academic standards, aligning state assessments to accurately reflect student achievement and growth, and strengthening accountability. Now, for the first time, our state test shows similar performance as exams like ACT and NAEP. Tennessee has improved its ranking on the Nation’s Report Card, including moving into the top 25 states in three areas. Additionally, Tennessee has improved from a 72.6% graduation rate in 2007 to 89.1% in 2017, among the top 10 states for graduation rate in the country.