Updated at 5:10 p.m. on Thursday, June 14, 2018.
In response to another year of problematic testing across the state, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Thursday the state will start looking for a possible new testing vendor for TNReady.
Releasing a new request for proposals for testing vendors was one of several changes announced. The department and McQueen have been under fire from lawmakers after a string of issues in April led to the state announcing this year's testing would yield questionable data.
Lawmakers passed a hurried bill in April to ensure teachers would not be negatively affected by the fiasco and test scores, which were more than likely affected by technology issues, a severed fiber optic cable and a plethora of other problems during the testing window in April.
"Teachers, students and families deserve a testing process they can have confidence in, and we are doing everything possible to meet that responsibility," McQueen said in a statement. "We are always committed to listening and improving, and we'll continue to do just that."
The state also will amend its current contract with Questar in an effort to improve the assessment process for the 2018-2019 year, which Questar will still conduct. If a new vendor is chosen after the state's proposal request this fall, the contract will begin with the 2019-2020 school year.
It was previously announced that the department had transferred test design and development responsibilities of TNReady to ETS, leaving the administration and scoring of the assessment to Questar.
The state has only worked with Questar for a few years, which it chose after terminating its contract with Measurement Inc., the testing vendor who developed TNReady, in 2016.
Some of the contract changes the state announced it would explore include: reducing a number of specific pricing components, adding performance indicators to better measure success, and adding a number of steps Questar must take to improve readiness for online — a multistate stress test, a third-party review, providing crisis-level monitoring during testing, and improving customer service, according to a news release.
The state also has adjusted the timeline of its transition to fully-online testing, despite being one of only 10 states where middle schools do not take tests online.
According to the original multi-year plan, all high school and middle school tests would be conducted online by the 2018-2019 school year. Next school year, however, students in grades three through eight will continue to take TNReady math, English and social studies tests on paper. Students in grades three through four will also take science tests on paper.
"We do not want to go back to paper and pencil," said Dale Lynch, executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, at Thursday's news conference. "Online testing is the way to go."
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.