2012-2013 Problems with a misalignment between curriculum and testing. Teachers were told to teach Common Core State Standards but their students were administered TCAP tests based on the old Student Performance Indicators.
2013-2014 TDOE's integrity on testing was called into question when Commissioner Huffman was widely criticized for a lack of transparency in testing, failing to release TCAP quick scores, and his controversial decision to waive scores from being calculated into the final semester grades.
2014-2015 McQueen's first year starts off as a cheerleader for the new upcoming TNReady online test and ends with magical TCAP scores due to an unexpected change in the post equating formula.
2015-2016 TNReady's Epic Failure. After two years of promoting the new TNReady online platform, it failed miserably. To make matters worse, Measurement, Inc., the testing company was unable to send out a paper & pencil replacement to schools so TDOE was forced to cancel testing for that year.
2016-2017 It was back to paper & pencil testing but the problems didn't disappear.
What's the definition of insanity?
Yeah, well, it looks like Questar's technical glitches in New York last week were a foreboding prediction of what was to come this week in Tennessee. Sure enough, Tennessee students also experienced log-on issues when the new online TNReady testing came to a screeching halt this morning.
TDOE downplayed the problem claiming that there were just some technical glitches and not a statewide crash. TDOE also claimed that glitches were resolved and testing resumed. However, several school districts were notifying parents and the public that TNReady testing would not continue today.
We received reports from our readers all over the state:
"Haywood County Schools suspended State Testing today at HHS, SHILC, & ESIS due to issues with state online testing."
"Lakeland’s 'indefinitely suspended' because of internet problems with the host."
"Shelby County. Problems logging in. Some students waited an hour for log in to work."
"Williamson County didn’t test. Fiasco!"
"'system crash' no testing in Cheatham county."
"Wilson CO. Down. Paper test begin tomorrow."
"Sumner County-received an email stating that testing was canceled today due to a “glitch” in the system. Testing will now start tomorrow and Wednesday instead."
"Rutherford County...all testing cancelled for today due to system issues"
"Knox county - kids at the middle school were to start today. 'Due to technical difficulties beyond our control, we have postponed tcap testing. We are awaiting direction from the state on how to proceed.'”
"No testing at the L&N STEM Academy today in Knox Cty"
From Gresham Middle School in Knox County: "Due to technical difficulties beyond our control, we have postponed TCAP testing. We are awaiting direction from the state on how to proceed."
And Williamson Strong is reporting:
"We've heard that at least 36 districts including WCS, MNPS, Knox County, Sumner County, Rutherford County, Cumberland County, Cannon County, Washington County, Wilson County, Franklin County, Chester County, and Bartlett have had problems with online testing today."
News of the testing debacle even reached Capitol Hill. During the Joint Committee on Government Operations hearing, Rep. Hardaway mentioned that Commissioner McQueen has been absent from the University of Tennessee Trustee Board meetings.
Time to Act!!
While TDOE and Commissioner McQueen will no doubt shrug off the failure to launch as a minor glitch that was quickly fixed, we know better. We know from our readers that
—A big red message popped up on screens saying that the server crashed.
—Some kids spent 30 minutes trying to log on and only had 10 minutes to complete the test. We know those scores will be used against our teachers and our schools next year.
—At least one student was able to log on at a middle Tennessee high school to complete the Chemistry EOC. But his classmates were not. The Chemistry EOC is scheduled to be administered to them in two weeks. So, what's to stop him from telling his classmates what was on the test?
—It was pandemonium in one classroom as proctors struggled to time each student starting with when their log in was successful. Multiple timers, multiple starts & stops meant craziness affecting performance.
And finally, we know that teachers have been threatened up one side and down the other that they could lose their license, be fired, or something else equally horrible if they so much as make one little mistake while proctoring TNReady. We know that because they signed forms acknowledging what would happen to them.
But Questar, TDOE's testing company, makes a mistake that disrupts testing statewide and it is no big deal. Until the scores are used in teacher evaluations and to grade our school systems. Then, it will be a big deal. A big deal for teachers and a big deal for school districts.
Rep. Mitchell is right. It's time to act. And the time is now.
And you can start by contacting your state representative and Commissioner Candice McQueen.