The state’s top educator is promising next year’s standardized testing will go more smoothly — and she’s making some changes to try to bring that about.
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Monday that the state is planning to strip testing vendor Questar of some of its responsibilities, following widespread outages that led many to question the validity of this year’s TNReady results.
The decision means New Jersey-based Educational Testing Services will take over development and design of next year’s TNReady exams. The company had already been responsible for the science and social studies sections, and next year, it'll also handle math and English.
"We believe we have to get better," McQueen said during a press conference in Gov. Bill Haslam's office to discuss the administration's response to the TNReady snafu. "There's no option not to improve and to continue to make sure we have a seamless experience every single day for every single student."
The plan for now would be for Questar to continue administering TNReady exams. But the company’s contract is under review in November, and McQueen acknowledges there’s no guarantee it’ll be extended.
In the meantime, the state hopes to renegotiate the remainder of Questar’s $30 million contract, since it won’t have as many responsibilities.
Schools to be 'held harmless'
McQueen also reiterated the administration's promise that schools, teachers and districts will not be penalized for poor results on this year's exams.
She said the Department of Education will suspend plans to begin grading schools on an A-F scale until next year, and it will not use TNReady results to put schools in line for a state takeover.
Districts would be able to decide whether to use test data in evaluating individual students, but McQueen said they would not be able to drop students a letter grade.
And teachers also won’t see their pay reduced if their students did badly. They'll have the option to throw out the results when they're evaluated.
But there's still one potential consequence. It’ll be up to districts to decide whether teachers who don't accept their students' scores would be able to collect performance bonuses.