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Every year, students take tests to determine whether schools here and elsewhere meet or exceed standards. Hamilton students tested poorly last year. This classroom was in Illinois. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

 

Here's a little quiz about Hamilton County schools and our board of education's anger over new state-mandated tests.

Don't worry. Think of this as a practice test. We'll give you answers forthwith.

The new tests — a refinement of what we've known as TCAPs — are called TNReady. True or False? True.

The new tests will take much more time for schools and teachers to administer. True or False. False.

But wait, you say? You read in this paper last week that school board members were outraged over the fact that the tests would take up far more of the school system's instructional time? True. You did read that.

"Basically seven weeks we have devoted to testing," Kirk Kelly, director of testing and accountability for the school system, told the board as he explained the upcoming academic calendar during the board's special work session Thursday to discuss the district's low test scores released last week.

But board members, instead of delving into our students' terribly low and falling TCAP scores, fell into outrage over what they were told would be hijacked instructional time for the new tests. True or False? True.

Discussion of last year's TCAP scores evaporated when Kelly and Superintendent Rick Smith began talking about the seven weeks of TNready test scheduling. Smith told board members he expected their angry reactions. He said it was the same reaction the district's principals had when they were informed of the news.

"They, too, were frustrated, angry and emotional," Smith told the board. " Really good teachers are going to look at this and say, "I've lost 30 or 40 percent of my instructional time."

Just to test your reading ability quickly: A good Hamilton County teacher will lose 30 or 40 percent of instruction time because of the new state-mandated test. True or False? True, this is what you read and it's what Smith said.

It is also true that the testing schedule here is said to be carving out seven weeks of the school's roughly 40-week school year. But state school officials say the tests should take nowhere near that long.

The Tennessee Department of Education has on its website TNReady's testing time, compared to TCAP's testing time.

According to the chart, maximum testing time for grades three through five (converted from minutes to hours) was about 8.7 hours with TCAP and will be about 11.2 hours with TNReady.

For middle-schoolers, the old 9.1 hours of TCAPs will stretch to 11.7 hours.

High schoolers' maximum testing time will actually decrease — from about 18 hours under TCAPs to 14.8 hours for TNReady.

Stringing all those hours together, the new tests will take about 37 hours — just over a week for all grades put together. The old tests took just under 36 hours.

Here's another test question. The new tests can only be taken on computers and Hamilton County doesn't have enough. True or False? The answer to this two-part question actually is False and True. Tennessee Department of Education spokeswoman Ashley Ball says districts can apply for a "device waiver" to administer the tests with pencil and paper.

And for the record, Ball also says the state is not mandating exactly how and when school districts give the tests.

"Districts have more flexibility than they have ever had" for testing, she said late Friday. They've also had months to plan, since Ball said superintendents and other administrators learned all this information about the new tests in a meeting in March — not "just last week" as Smith told the board on Thursday.

Final test question. Did Smith and school system administrators lead the board into a tizzy to avoid talking in depth about Hamilton County students scoring below state average in nine of 10 categories in last year's TCAP tests?

We'll let this one be answered for extra credit by school board members.

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