Tennessee Aims to Improve Testing Experience with Changes to Assessment Program

Following a statewide listening tour, the Tennessee Department of Education is updating its TNReady student assessment program for the current school year and the 2019-2020 school year.

Based on recommendations from the Education Advisory Team to Governor Bill Haslam, the Tennessee Department of Education is making changes to TNReady, the state's annual school assessment program to monitor student progress. 

Problems with the first iteration of TNReady, particularly with the creation of a customized test for the state, led to a recent statewide listening tour and the development of a recommendations report from the Education Advisory Team. Issues included the lack of credibility of the program, uneven availability of computers for one-to-one testing, lack of timely results and a need for greater alignment of assessment expectations.

"Throughout the listening tour, the message from teachers was clear that we do not need to start over but rather do all we can to improve the delivery of TNReady," Haslam said. "We think these changes will do just that and create a better testing experience for both students and teachers."

The Department of Education is already taking steps to improve TNReady, including the verification of a testing platform for roughly 50,000 steps, commitment to a quicker turnaround of results with the fall end-of-course assessments, and providing teachers better education opportunities. Additional changes will be made such as earlier access to test administration documents, clarity and consistency in test administration documents, less paper to manage by combining materials, and a more responsive help desk.

As the department starts the process of selecting a testing vendor for the 2019-2020 school year, the governor has laid out additional steps to be taken as a response to the listening tour process:

  1. Greater access to technology by pursuing the implementation of the Tennessee Student Technology Enrichment Program, to provide school districts with more affordable options for obtaining technology devices.
  2. Smart delivery of the assessments based on grade levels: Grades 3-4 testing will remain paper only, while grades 5-8 testing in science and other subject areas will move online pending vendor readiness. High school end-of-course assessments will be administered online; the state will explore offering reading passages in paper copy.
  3. Faster results will be delivered to teachers and families, as priority will be given to an assessment vendor that can provide electronic delivery by creating an online login once scores are available.
  4. Better preparation will be available by providing additional TNReady practice test items to teachers and students and by pursuing an option that would allow districts to deliver optional benchmark test that mirror TNReady.
  5. More Tennessee partnerships will be established by awarding additional credit during the procurement process to a vendor that plans to partner with Tennessee companies and universities to develop the tests.

More information on TNReady can be found here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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