We wish Tennessee's seeming ongoing problem with online standardized testing and scoring for public school students was an isolated problem. If that were the case, the problem might be more readily identified and eliminated.
Unfortunately, states across the country have suffered technical glitches in attempting to get the tests that measure students' critical thinking and problem-solving skills properly administered and returned.
Malfunctions disrupted computerized testing in more than 30 states since 2013, according to media reports compiled by FairTest — including more than a dozen states in 2015, a Washington Post report noted in the midst of the 2016 testing season.
That doesn't excuse what happened in Tennessee, where it was revealed late last week that some 9,400 tests (out of about 600,000) were scored incorrectly. Yes, that's only about 1.6 percent of tests, but about 1,700 tests (.28 of all tests taken) affected students' proficiency scores and 230 teachers statewide saw changes in their Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scores, a measure by which the state evaluates teacher performance.relatedarticlethumbrelatedarticlethumb
So, we're only talking the potential future of students and teachers — a serious issue.
Questar Assessment, the state's testing vendor which has another year on its two-year, $60 million contract, took full responsibility for the problem and said it is correcting it.
State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, under whose aegis the vendor was hired and who was in office when the previous vendor hired before her tenure was unable to make its online system work, has taken heat over the problems, though it's unclear what she could have done.
Two 2018 gubernatorial candidates, one Democrat and one Republican, pounced quickly.
"I cannot fathom how a problem of this magnitude happened again with our testing system," Democrat House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said. " ... McQueen ... assured us (legislative members) that problems had been eliminated, and here we find ourselves in another mess that not only cost millions in tax dollars, but also has eroded the public's trust in a testing system ... . We need credibility and accountability from the department on this issue."
"The news that nearly 10,000 TNReady tests were scored incorrectly has resulted in educators, parents and legislators seeking answers," Republican House Majority Leader Beth Harwell said.
She said she would ask the chairman of the House Government Operations Committee to hold a hearing on testing, including on the amount of testing. What a hearing would do beyond having the testing company once again admit fault and have the reasons for standardized tests explained is unclear.
Short of the state breaking the contract or amending it to call for a return of money in light of any additional glitches, we're not sure what more the state can do. But we're confident McQueen and Questar are having those discussions.relatedarticlethumbrelatedarticlethumb