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Hamilton County schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson speaks during a meeting with the Times Free Press on Aug. 2, 2017.

Hamilton County Schools and the Tennessee Department of Education are investigating how — and who — released embargoed state testing reports to a local news outlet.

Last Friday, a column appeared on an online news site containing test score data, supposedly 2018 TNReady data that had been released to school districts under an embargo earlier this month.

Sara Gast, spokeswoman for the education department, confirmed that Commissioner Candice McQueen was aware of the leak, and Superintendent Bryan Johnson has spoken with her about his team's investigation into the incident.

"Obviously, we are making sure that everyone who has access to data understands the seriousness of the embargo," Johnson said. "I've been in constant communication with the state and in direct communication with the commissioner. She is also taking it very seriously."

Gast emphasized that the data is not considered finalized or official, as the state typically releases preliminary data to school districts to review for discrepancies or other issues. Typically, superintendents are given access to the data, which they then can release on an as-needed-basis at their discretion.

"At the department, we are exploring what additional controls we can put in place to ensure districts and those who have access to embargoed data respect the opportunity we provide them to review, analyze and verify the data files before they are finalized," Gast said in a statement. "Again, as I shared with you last week, the data that has been discussed publicly is not final and may change. We are finalizing data over the next several weeks and anticipate we will be able to share TNReady data in July."

Hamilton County Schools has released data to district officials, administrators as well as school principals, in recent weeks. Johnson would not confirm if the district had any leads or what the ramifications would be if it was discovered how the data was released.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757- 6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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