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Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam talks about education and his budget to the editorial board at the Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he intends to give Tennessee teachers multiple choices on how they want to count the testing portion of their annual evaluations.

"We're going to give teachers an option in this year's test because there has been so much uncertainty around new tests and then the change in the format," Haslam told reporters.

Last week, the administration's move from pencil-and-paper to online testing made headlines after the system crashed shortly after testing began. In the meantime, the state intends to move back to pencil-and-paper tests for now.

"We're very disappointed in the technology platform from our vendor on TNReady," Haslam said. "We still think that's a very good assessment in terms of what we're teaching students. So we feel great about the tests, and pencil and paper is how we've taken tests for a long time in the state.

"That being said," Haslam added, "teachers this year, as part of their evaluation, will be able to choose the best of results for themselves."

The state has a backup plan for students to use traditional paper tests.

Students' results on tests are important for teachers because 35 percent of their evaluations hang on the value-added assessments. The new TNReady tests replace the state's old TCAP exams and were approved over a flare-up over proposed Common Core tests.

Haslam said teachers can choose to use this year's test results. Or they can rely on a "three-year rolling average" of this year and the two prior years' results. The third choice is using the two previous years' results.

"We're still using student outcomes and results in terms of evaluating teachers," the governor said. "We think that's really important. I just think there's been so much uncertainty around this that this is the best answer for where we are right now."

Tennessee Education Association President Barbara Gray called it "encouraging to see the governor listen to the widespread calls from educators, parents and local school boards for a one-year moratorium for TNReady data in teacher evaluations."

But Gray said that although Haslam's "proposal is a step in the right direction toward decoupling standardized test scores with high-stakes decisions, these measurements have proven to be unreliable statistical estimates that are inappropriate for use in teacher evaluations at all. TEA will continue its push to eliminate all standardized test scores from annual teacher evaluations."

Contact Andy Sher at asher @timesfreepress.com, 615-255-0550 or follow via Twitter @AndySher1.

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