Parents react to Tennessee's decision to cancel standardized testing

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen speaks to media representatives while at the Chattanooga Times Free Press in this file photo.
photo The glitchy rollout of TNReady to replace Tennessee's TCAP test is sparking debate and anxiety.
Elementary and middle school students in Hamilton County will not be taking any more standardized tests this spring after the state suspended testing for those grades for the remainder of the school year.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Wednesday afternoon testing for grades 3-8 will not continue because the state terminated its contract with Measurement Inc., the vendor that developed the new TNReady test that replaced the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program.

"TNReady was designed to provide Tennessee students, teachers and families with better information about what students know and understand," McQueen said.

Attempts to obtain comment from Measurement Inc. were unsuccessful as of press time.

The inaugural year for TNReady has been plagued with problems, which the state blames on Measurement Inc. The two-part test was designed to be taken online, but due to glitches with the online platform, the state decided in February to return to paper and pencil testing.

Hamilton County schools had to delay part one testing twice waiting for the tests to arrive, and McQueen decided to cancel part two of the test after learning districts wouldn't receive the materials in time to start testing as scheduled.

"We believe that districts have exceeded their responsibility and obligation to wait for grade 3-8 materials," McQueen said.

At this point, the state has only paid Measurement Inc. $1.6 million of its $108 million contract, McQueen said.

Testing will continue across the state for high school students and districts have received the materials needed to administer the test. McQueen said these tests will be scored and districts will receive the results this fall.

The state will provide Hamilton County with information about how students in grades 3-8 performed on part one of TNReady, but that information will be used only for informational purposes and scores will not be attached, McQueen said.

Heather DeGaetano, a parent of a student at Normal Park who is a proponent of parents opting their students out of TNReady, said canceling testing for grades 3-8 is the right thing to do for kids.

"With so many problems, serious questions on the validity of the tests and the continuing and confusing delays, I'm really glad to see that the state Department of Education finally listened to parents from across Tennessee," she said.

Jill Levine, former principal at Normal Park Museum Magnet and the Hamilton County Schools' new chief academic officer, said canceling the test is a win for students and teachers throughout the state.

"We now have the gift of added instructional time," Levine said. "I encourage every teacher to make the most of this time by trying out a new and exciting lesson - maybe an arts-based lesson or hands-on science experiment."

Jamie Woodson, executive chairman and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, said she is disappointed many students will not be able to take the new TNReady.

"Parents and teachers deserve to know how much progress their students have made over the year, and all Tennesseans deserve an annual snapshot of the progress schools and school districts are making," Woodson said in a news release. "Going forward, we have a responsibility to learn from this transition year to ensure that next school year our students and teachers actually receive a test that honors their hard work."

McQueen said the department is working with the state's Central Procurement Office to expedite the selection of a vendor for the scoring of this year's high school assessment and the development of next year's test.

Shortly after McQueen made the announcement on Wednesday, a small group of parents met with representatives from the Tennessee Department of Education at the Chattanooga State Office Building to discuss TNReady parent reports. Data analysts and policy administrators within the department sought feedback from parents on several mockups that could be used in the future to measure and communicate student performance.

Although standardized testing has been suspended this year, the parents who attended said they are encouraged by what they saw in the meeting. They said the designs used more intuitive language and informational graphics than the confusing parent reports generated by TCAP did.

Randy Dunlop, a parent to several students in McMinn County, said he is glad parents are being asked for their opinion because, "We're the ones who have to read those reports."

After the meeting, the small group also spoke about the suspension of standardized testing this year, echoing many of the opinions of other parents and educators in Hamilton County by saying they have been frustrated by the TNReady rollout for months.

Stacy Alexander, a parent with students at Big Ridge Elementary and Hixson Middle School agreed, saying, "This decision should have been made weeks ago."

Staff writer Emmett Gienapp contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at or 423-757-6592. Follow on twitter @kendi_and.