This story was updated Aug. 21, 2018, at 5:38 p.m. with more information.
Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday announced a six-stop statewide tour to discuss with students, teachers and administrators how TNReady testing can be improved.
The tour's goal is to explore ways to improve TNReady testing, which is in its fourth year with the 2018-2019 school year.
"Tennessee's unprecedented improvement in education is the result of high academic standards and an assessment that measures knowledge of those standards," Haslam said in a statement. "Without aligned assessments, we don't know where our students stand and where we need to improve. We finally have a test that is aligned to Tennessee's strong academic standards, and I don't want recent assessment delivery issues to cause us to lose sight of why we have these tests in the first place. Delivering the test without disruption is essential and we must get it right."
Delivery of TNReady has been fraught with issues since the test was first launched in 2015. This spring, students and educators saw a new batch of issues, including problems with the test's vendor, Questar, a possible hack that was later disproved and even a severed fiber-optic cable that halted testing across Middle Tennessee.
The goals of the engagement plan and tour, according to a news release, are:
1. Engage in an open conversation about assessment and ways to improve administration;
2. Gather feedback that can inform a smooth delivery of state assessments this school year and beyond, including feedback on the selection of the state's next assessment partner to be chosen later this school year;
3. Discuss how to better provide schools, educators, parents and students with meaningful and timely results from assessments; and
4. Distinguish assessment content from delivery in an effort to focus on the value assessments can provide.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen will join the governor on each leg of the tour. The state will release a request for proposals sometime this fall or in early 2019 to find a new testing vendor for the 2019-2020 school year.
Haslam has tapped longtime educator and former executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents Wayne Miller to facilitate the listening tour stops.
"As someone who has spent his entire career in public education, I know when difficult issues arise it often takes more listening than talking to resolve them and move forward in partnership and collaboration," Miller said in a statement. "I am excited about the process the governor has put forward and honored to facilitate conversations with educators throughout the state."
The governor also named a three-person educator advisory team to work with Miller. The team will develop recommendations on how the testing process can be improved that will be considered by the governor and the next administration.
"Tennessee educators are committed to improving educational outcomes for our students, and assessments are an important and necessary component for us to meet that commitment," said Cicely Woodward, the 2018 Tennessee teacher of the year and member of the advisory team, in a statement. "I am appreciative of the governor's recognition of the need to continue to get feedback, and I look forward to working with the governor and educators to improve assessment delivery."
Haslam noted he wants to prepare the next administration for what needs to be done to improve the testing process.
"We obviously had some issues with TNReady," he said during a stop in Chattanooga on Tuesday. "But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. I want to be certain that we transition to and prepare the next governor."
The listening tour will begin Friday, Aug. 24, in Knoxville and be followed by stops planned for Hamilton, Shelby, Williamson, Greene and Gibson counties. Specific locations and times have not been announced.
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.