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News & Press: Assessments & Standards

Leading is Hard – Pointing Fingers is Easy

Tuesday, October 17, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Professional Educators of Tennessee
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The Department of Education is tasked with damage control over a problem in assessment for the third consecutive year.  Whether the fault lies with the Department, the test vendor, or some other piece of the puzzle, is of little concern to teachers across the state who may have been impacted. At the end of the day, these assessments factor heavily into the state’s accountability model that affects their overall employment. Regardless of whose fault it is, our teachers suffer the consequences. However, finger pointing does not solve the issue.  It is time for the Department of Education, Tennessee legislators, and education stakeholders to work together to resolve this recurrent obstacle that only serves to create tension and stall progress. Leadership on difficult issues is hard and always challenging. 

We applaud the Department of Education’s transparency of discovering the issues through their own internal oversight and review of the assessment results.  Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen has proactively acknowledged the problems and communicated with districts and stakeholders.  To their credit, in the past the Department has also endeavored to mitigate the damage on behalf of teachers. In response to past problems, legislation was passed that created an avenue for affected teachers to keep test scores from shaping their evaluations.

This time around the ramifications appear to be minimal – once the department instigated an extensive review of all the tests and questions with the vendor, less than one percent of all assessments were identified as having been affected (5 form versions of the English I & II and Integrated Math II exams). The newly implemented grades 3-8 assessments were not impacted and overall over 99 percent of score data were reported correctly.  If this issue had been a first-time issue, or testing and evaluations were not linked, this issue would be insignificant.   

For the Department, 99 percent is not enough, and they are committed to attaining 100 percent accuracy. According to Commissioner McQueen, “We hold our vendor and ourselves to the highest standard of delivery because that is what students, teachers, and families in Tennessee deserve.” However, problems continue to undermine the validity of the entire system. And the question numerous teachers posed to us: “How long will our state continue attaching such high stakes to such a flawed process?” 

“Obviously, we continue to have deep concerns regarding the dependent relationship of assessment and evaluations,” according to Professional Educators of Tennessee Chief Operating Officer Audrey Shores.  She added, “The road to digital assessments would be a much easier transition, if they didn’t have the incredibly stressful potential of sending a teacher’s career careening off-course.”  

This is also the third consecutive assessment vendor who has not provided accurate results. Presumably, we have been through three of the top candidates in the industry, and all have failed to meet the needs and expectations of Tennessee students and educators. Questar is widely known and respected for its innovative approach to assessment.  However, Educational Testing Service (ETS) recently purchased Questar, so the state must also ensure compliance and high expectations.   

On Monday, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell called for hearings on the current state of the assessments, which is expected to be held next week.  On Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 4:00 pm CST, Professional Educators of Tennessee will be hosting a live webinar with Commissioner McQueen and the Department of Education to discuss the impact of TNReady scores.

To register for this event, go to




Professional Educators of Tennessee is a a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

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