For the second year in a row, report cards for Hamilton County students — and many others statewide — won't reflect their scores on the state's TNReady proficiency test that replaced the old TCAP.
The test measures how well students know their lessons and how much progress they made over the school year. It's supposed to count for 10 percent of their final grade.
In 2016, the first year for the test, a massive computer crash meant many students statewide couldn't take the test. Scores in grades K-8 weren't even counted.
This year, the schools used paper-and-pencil testing, which by all accounts went fine. But by some estimates, 75 percent of Tennessee school districts — Hamilton County among them — didn't get scores back in time to include them in report cards.
The State Department of Education said those districts could have met any one of three deadlines for turning in testing materials between May 10 and May 19 — depending on the district's size and the end of their school year. Only those that met the earliest deadline would get their TNReady scores by May 22, and have enough time to build the scores into students' final grades.
Some local educators, as well as the Tennessee Education Report blog, said school districts didn't know what that deadline was until it was literally upon them.
In a Thursday post, Tennessee Education Report founder Andy Spears quoted Nashville Public Radio station WPLN that more than 75 percent of districts wouldn't get scores back in time for report cards.
Spears also quoted emails from Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. The school systems shipped completed tests to vendor Questar in two parts. In an email on May 3, two days before the end of the testing window, McQueen asked school districts to make sure all the data got to Questar "in a timely fashion" and "as soon as possible."
In a May 10 email, McQueen wrote that only districts whose completed test forms were received by Questar as of that very day would get scores back by May 22, according to the Tennessee Education Report.
Amy Katcher, spokeswoman for Hamilton County Schools, said the system sent its first batch of materials April 24, ahead of the April 28 deadline. She said the system had a deadline of May 12 for the second batch and actually sent the material on May 10.
But Department of Education spokeswoman Sara Gast said the May 10 deadline was firm. She said all systems and testing administrators were told throughout the process that test materials had to be submitted within five days after the test window closed on May 5.
Regarding the claim that 75 percent of Tennessee school districts won't be able to include TNReady scores on report cards, Gast said some districts' school years go into June, so "not receiving scores back this week does not automatically mean" that won't happen.
"What I think that story was trying to reference was less than a quarter of districts were eligible based on the receipt of their materials, but we actually have accelerated our time lines to prioritize end-of-course scores based on districts' feedback (end-of-course data has a variety of use at the high school level, such as class rank and decisions about summer school, and many districts that included scores in grades for fall block wanted to do the same for spring block), so now more than 100 districts have some data available earlier than those time lines anticipated and their report cards go out later," Gast wrote.
The issue won't really matter for local students. Instead of their TNReady scores, the system will calculate 10 percent of their average performance for the year and add it in. Katcher said that won't affect any student's final grade.
But Jill Levine, chief academic officer for Hamilton County Schools, said it's a problem for teachers and administrators. They're holding a big planning meeting next week to chart out the coming school year.
"The district as well as school leadership teams use the data in the summer in order to create strategic plans for the next school year. It's difficult to create those plans without current data," Levine said.
And she said the continued confusion and dysfunction over TNReady sends a bad signal to Tennessee schoolchildren.
"We as a school district have told the kids three years running that their TNReady score will count as part of their final grade, and that didn't happen," Levine said. "How many times can you tell the kids the score is going to count in their final grade and have it not happen?"
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.