Despite criticism, Questar wants to be considered for TNReady testing
Auditors released a lengthy report in December that held both the state and Questar accountable for failing to monitor and evaluate TNReady testing. Over the last few years there have been several issues involving cyber-attacks, overloaded online servers, and test result delays.
In April of 2018, about 25,000 students statewide were unable to login to the testing site.
"The system would go down periodically any challenge we had was actually a statewide challenge as well that we encountered," explained Shannon Moody.
Moody is the Director of Accountability and Research for Hamilton County Schools, their office manages logistics and testing operations with the state.
After widespread criticism, Governor Bill Haslam said the state plans on contracting with a new vendor.
"Nobody likes what happened last year and rather than point fingers let's say let's go fix it," Haslam said.
However, don't count out Questar, the company said they want to be considered too.
"Questar Assessment is planning to bid for the TNReady contract," said Questar Assessment Chief Operating Officer Brad Baumgartner, in a Thursday statement. "We believe we have the right people and processes in place to best serve the state of Tennessee."
Questar added that it "does not agree with several of the Tennessee comptroller's findings," but the company says it appreciated being included in the audit process.
A state audit specifically pointed to Questar for failing to adequately staff customer support and the decision to switch its text-to-speech software which resulted in not only lengthy testing disruptions, but also led officials to briefly speculate the system was experiencing a cyberattack.
Baumgartner says Questar has since improved its "outbound" communication with state and school district staff and its customer support centers will continue to be properly staffed. The company says it also never indicated that a "cyberattack was certain."
Hamilton County Schools does not have a position on who the state picks, however, they are looking for a system that will support the roughly 45,000 students in the district.
"Smooth testing for us means, that kids have experience where they're able to show what they learned throughout the year and what they know and they can do that in an authentic environment," Moody said.
The Department of Education said they are looking for a new vendor, or potentially multiple vendors, to help administer the test starting this fall. Several factors will be looked at when searching for vendors, including how many other states the potential vendor is working in, the ability to deliver the test, scoring, reporting, and program management. Qualities that will help students and educators in Hamilton County.
"The data can come back and our schools, teachers, parents can see that information and make wise decisions for their kids on what's the next step in their instructional process," Moody said.
We reached out to the Department of Education to see when they plan to pick a vendor and have not heard back.