Tennessee Department of Education updates public on fall TNReady, local districts talk progress

Brandon Paykamian • Dec 18, 2018 at 6:49 PM

Local and state education officials have had a few battles over the role of state testing and the efficiency of the administration of the TNReady assessment. But after thousands of students completed their exams during the fall block, many of them agree on one thing — things have been going smoother compared to previous years. 

The Tennessee Department of Education released an update on the TNReady state assessment Tuesday morning after 64,000 students in 280 high schools completed their end-of-course exams online during the fall semester. About 72,000 tests, including 215,000 subparts, were completed online using the Nextera testing platform. 

In Tuesday’s press release, department officials said they’ve taken “a number of steps in response to the feedback we had received over the last several months, including improving customer service and making it easier for educators to administer the test and problem-solve any issues.” This resulted in a 66 percent reduction in calls to the testing vendor Questar’s “help desk” regarding complaints about technical issues that previously slowed down the testing process in schools across the state. 

In Johnson City Schools, Science Hill High School Testing Coordinator Aaron Wood called the administration “seamless.” 

“At Science Hill, we tested 1,049 students consisting of 3,147 subparts this fall. We appreciate the Tennessee Department of Education for granting us an extension of one day, adding onto the 15-day window due to inclement weather. Testing went extremely smooth this semester, and that is a direct reflection of the outstanding job our faculty did preparing their students,” Wood said.

“The testing environment was much improved from last school year, and we hope that it continues into this spring semester. We appreciate the work that the Tennessee Department of Education and Questar put in to administer a more seamless testing window.” 

Washington County Schools’ Secondary and CTE Director Ashley Keys said the story was much the same in the county schools. She said they didn’t report any problems after testing about 1,400 students during the fall. 

“In the past, students had to start the test over and lost hours of work. It was a frustrating process for all involved,” she said. “Students are anxious enough over testing. The platform should not cause more stress.

“Students used the platform with ease this testing cycle,” she continued. “No work was lost, and no one had to restart a test. We hope this is the same experience with every testing cycle.”

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said this testing season “gives us more confidence in the improvements we are making to help our vendor test online at scale.”

“We always want taking a test to be a natural part of the teaching and learning cycle and another opportunity to see what our students know, with the goal being to provide educators with feedback that they can use to better support students. Now we are looking to build on this administration as we quickly return scores and move ahead into preparations for the spring,” the commissioner said in the press release.

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