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State issues guidance to schools on how to 'hold teachers harmless' from TNReady scores

Zach Vance • Updated May 19, 2018 at 6:29 PM

 One of the 110th Tennessee General Assembly’s final actions was the passage of legislation that holds teachers and students harmless from assessment scores generated from this year’s TNReady tests, following yet another botched rollout. 

Early last week, The Tennessee Department of Education issued a memo to all school districts explaining in detail how schools should use the data generated from the 2017-2018 TNReady assessment. 

The gist of the memo basically leaves the decision up to each district whether this year’s TNReady data will factor into student grades, just as long as it doesn’t lower it.

“The Legislation provides that for grades 3-8 ‘each local board of education may choose the percentage within the range of 0 percent to 15 percent that scores from the TNReady assessments administered in the 2017-18 school year shall count on a student's final grade for the spring semester,’” the memo stated. 

“If a district chooses to include 2017-18 TNReady or EOC scores in a student’s final grade, then inclusion of such scores must not result in a lower final grade for a student. This means districts may include scores for some students and exclude scores for others. Additionally, an individual student may have scores included for one subject area but excluded for others.”

Teachers and principals who have TNReady data included in their evaluation score may also choose to nullify that score, and disregard their entire evaluation. Based on these decisions, schools are prevented from taking adverse action against those who opt out of using the score. 

Schools districts are also prevented from basing teacher compensation decisions on data generated from the tests, and even if a teacher chooses to disregard the assessment scores, he or she may still be eligible for tenure, the state’s instructions said.

Additionally, the state won’t give schools or districts A through F grades for this year’s testing, and the scores can’t be used to relegate a school to bottom 5 percent of all schools academically in the state. 

Roger Walk, supervisor of instruction for Johnson City Schools, said he believed lawmakers and the state have made good efforts to ensure this year’s scores don’t negatively affect students and teachers. 

“We continue to discuss the guidance provided by the state and believe that the Tennessee Legislature and (Tennessee Department of Education) have made good efforts to ensure that students, teachers, and schools are not adversely impacted by TNReady scores that may not accurately represent what our students learned this past school year,” Walk said in a statement. 

“In addition, the Johnson City Board of Education is very interested in finding ways to improve the testing process for Johnson City students. In the coming weeks, we will be considering additional processes we can offer the TN Department of Education.”

At the Johnson City school board’s May meeting, members voted to allow the school system to count only the scores that helped students’ end-of-year scores and not count those that hampered the scores. 

The board also nearly passed its third annual resolution stating it had no confidence in TNReady, but the motion was withdrawn as school officials wanted more time to draft their own student assessment plan and share it with the Department of Education. 

Early in the legislative session, Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, filed legislation on behalf of Johnson City Schools that would have allowed schools to use the ACT as the sole measure of student and teacher evaluations, but that bill ultimately failed in an education subcommittee. 

In early April, many school districts across the state reported widespread issues related to students logging into the TNReady testing platform and submitting their tests. Further investigation by the state discovered the problem was likely related to a deliberate cyber attack. 

Later that month, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and State Office of Homeland Security began an investigation into the alleged cyber attack on the state’s testing vendor, Questar. 

The state’s contract with Questar is set to expire in November, but Gov. Bill Haslam said the state is in the middle of talking with the vendor about “contract amendments,” according to the Tennessean.

To learn more about the state’s direction on how schools should proceed with TNReady testing scores, visit www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/education/documents/TNReady-Legislation-FAQ.pdf and https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/education/documents/detailed-eval-guidance_2017-18.pdf

 

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