Categorized | Education & Safety, News

School Board seeks no ‘negative impact’ from 2016 administration of TNReady

By Bill Short

Millington Schools logoThe Millington School Board adopted a resolution last week seeking no “negative impact” from the state’s 2016 administration of the TNReady student achievement testing program.
Board members took the action last Thursday during a special called meeting on a motion offered by Chairman Cody Childress and seconded by Chuck Hurt Jr. The motion was passed by a 6-1 vote, with Vice Chairman Greg Ritter dissenting.
The Tennessee Department of Education had informed public school districts that, beginning with the current academic year, standardized student achievement testing would be administered under the new TNReady program.
It was designed to reflect a “major transition” in the kind of test items and student responses by being administered online instead of in paper-and-pencil format.
For many months, the Millington municipal school system devoted “major resources” in a “comprehensive initiative” to prepare students, teachers and parents for the new online tests.
On Feb. 8, shortly after the commencement of online testing, the system failed statewide. The Education Department then decided to cancel online testing and administer the TNReady assessments in paper-and-pencil format.
The resolution states that previous “multiple incidents” had called into question the “viability” of the online testing platform. It expresses the school board’s “significant concerns” regarding the “validity” of the eventual assessment results and the Department’s “governance” of the process.
The board has requested that the Department take “immediate steps” to ensure that the district’s teachers, administrators, student performance rating and accountability are not “negatively impacted” by the outcomes of the 2016 administration of TNReady.
The resolution requests that, prior to the implementation of any proposed student assessment, the Department take “definitive steps” to:
(1) ensure that it is “thoroughly field-tested” with Tennessee public school students in order to demonstrate “proper test validity;” and
(2) is administered through a platform that is “sufficiently viable” to make the entire process “student-friendly and fully functional.”
On Feb. 17, Gov. Bill Haslam issued a press release recommending that teachers not be negatively impacted in their performance ratings for this year.
But Dr. David Roper, superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools, noted that the press release did not mention administrators.
“I think it would not be reasonable to say teachers are not held accountable, but administrators would be,” Roper contended, “because the student outcomes enter into the principals’ evaluations as well.”
Board member Louise Kennon said she has not found any evidence that TNReady has ever been field-tested anywhere for validity. If it has not been validated, she asked how it can be used to determine someone’s ability to be an administrator or a teacher.
Roper said that is one of the “main reasons” for the final paragraph of the resolution.
He noted that Measurement Inc., which the Education Department contracted with to administer TNReady, had advertised on Craig’s List to pay individuals $11 an hour to score the test responses.
Board member C. J. Haley said the ad included the phrase, “no experience necessary.” So, “anybody off the street” would have been grading the students’ tests.
“That has since been removed,” she acknowledged. “You can no longer find the link to it, but the job’s still there.”
In response to a question by Haley, Roper said the statewide failure of the online testing program will probably be considered a “breach of contract.”
Board member Don Holsinger said he had been contacted by “a couple of teachers and some parents.”
The teachers were concerned that they had taken time away from instruction to teach their students how to use the computer to take the test. The parents were concerned about “just the stupidity of it” that some students took part of the test and others did not.
“They’re going to throw it out completely,” Holsinger said. “That’s going to completely mess up the validity of the test.”
Childress said the primary thing for Millington residents to know is that the “state’s contractor” made the mistake and not the local school district.
Ritter acknowledged that it has been a “fiasco.” But he questioned why the board would adopt a resolution, because the state is proposing everything in it except no negative impact on the administrators.
Roper agreed that “some of this” has been addressed by Haslam’s press release. But he noted that it is not an “executive order” from the governor.
“He is proposing legislation that would fix this,” the superintendent said. “So, the bill has to go through the General Assembly. But with the governor pushing it, I’m sure that will happen.”
Roper reiterated that he would like to see the entire district as well as its administrators and teachers included in “whatever bill is developed.”
While acknowledging that adopting a resolution does not “make it a law,” Kennon said it gives Millington residents the board’s opinion of what has transpired. She concluded that the board needs “all the communication” it can get with the community.

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