A Land Without Accountability

When TNDOE abandoned the computer-based TNReady in favor of a paper-and-pencil test, it promised to print and distribute over one million paper test booklets to every school across the state and to do so in a matter of weeks.  As we wrote recently, this sounded like wishful thinking from an entity that has struggled to competently execute any step of this process.

Unfortunately, we were right. Yesterday, Dickson County Schools announced that they didn’t receive their tests and that they were forced to delay administration as a result.  Davidson County, where RePublic's schools are located, was promised printed tests this week.  It’s Friday. We haven’t received any tests - and our district has not received them either.

We are concerned that these printing delays will force us to change our testing calendar for the third time this month.  Last minute calendar changes have real effects on teachers, kids and families.  Already, because of the botched roll-out of TNReady, we have changed units of study and lesson plans, teacher awards ceremonies, the length of our marking periods, a planned student trip to Washington, DC, and conferences with parents about quarterly report cards.

We are concerned that, even if the state delivers the tests in a photo finish, we will discover printing errors, counting errors, and delivery errors with no time to fix them.  And we are concerned that these errors will compound – causing the state to scramble into next year – preventing thorough planning for and execution of the 2017 assessments.

When the testing platform failed, our Commissioner blamed the vendor - even though it’s her job to manage and vet that vendor.  Will we now blame the print shop and FedEx drivers? When the scoring is delayed to a point that the data is useless for instructional planning, will we blame that vendor, too?  Who’s accountable to Tennessee's teachers, parents, and children? 

Speaking of accountability, we would be remiss if we didn’t make one more call for political accountability. Andy Spears over at TNEdReport put it well this morning:

"The ongoing saga of the TNReady challenges reminds me of the time the legislature pulled Tennessee out of PARCC just as we were preparing to have our first year with the Common Core aligned tests. Instead of a year without a test, we administered another year of TCAP — a test not aligned with our state’s current standards, and thus not an accurate indicator of student mastery or teacher impact."

We have asked the state to cancel this year’s TNReady and to turn its attention to 2016-17. Above all, we have asked for honesty, accountability, and transparency.  Our students deserve it.