TNReady testing fails; online test canceled for 2015-16

TNReady testing fails; online test canceled for 2015-16

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The new program used for TNReady state testing experienced major outages across the state Monday.

The outages were so bad, Tennessee's Commissioner of Education decided to cancel all TNReady online tests. All the tests will be done with paper and pencil this year.

"Unfortunately, issues have continued to arise with the online platform. The new nature of the issue this morning has highlighted the uncertainly around the stability of Measurement Inc.'s testing platform, MIST. Despite the many improvements the department has helped to make to the system in recent months and based on the events of this morning, we are not confident in the system's ability to perform consistently. In the best interest of our students and to protect instructional time, we cannot continue with Measurement Incoporated's online testing platform in its current state. Moving forward, during the 2015-16 school year TNReady will be administered via paper and pencil (both Part I and Part II)."

According to a representative from the Department of Education, the network failed, which caused both the MIST and the MICA platforms to fail. That means many students who were taking the test had to stop testing and return to normal classes.

The issue affected Shelby County Schools, and SCS said the state asked them to discontinue testing for the day.

Shelby County Schools released the following statement Monday:

We have received notification from MIST, the TNReady assessment provider that the online platform is down statewide. They are working to reactivate the server. All schools in SCS have been notified and requested to discontinue testing until the State provides updates and next steps.

The failure left teachers at Snowden Elementary and schools across the state scrambling to put lessons together. In addition, parents were not happy.

"It's too much riding on the test," parent Paul Cheers said.

Cheers, who was already not a fan of the newly expanded TNReady testing, was not shy when he came to pick up his son from school and discovered the problems.

"Most kids aren't computer literate. They don't even have a computer at home, so how do you expect the child to take the test on a computer," Cheers said. "And it's already crashed and it's the first day. That's not right."

Keith Williams, the executive director of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association, a teachers' union, said his group was against going online all along, so he's not surprised by the network failure.

"We predicted that things like this would happen, and more of this will happen in the future," Williams said.

The Tennessee Department of Education's initial instructions to school districts said that if they "have students that are successfully testing, please allow them to complete the current session." Williams said that is the opposite of what the state should have said.

"That makes it worse, because you do not have the same conditions under which children are tested," he said. "A test that is valid must have the same conditions."

But Williams said that's a sign that this whole test process is now questionable.

"It is not valid, and this is proof-positive that it is not valid. And a test of this magnitude must be valid. It has to be valid in order to carry out the function that it is designed to do," Williams said.

He said there is too much riding on it for there to be questions with credibility.

"These scores that these tests produce determines the teachers' pay. It determines their tenure and, in many instances, whether they have jobs," Williams said.

That is why the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), the state-wide teachers union, is calling for a minimum one-year waiver from including TNReady scores in teacher evaluations.

"It is unfair and inappropriate to stake our teachers' professional standing on flawed, unreliable test scores in any year, but there are greater implications and uncertainty while implementing a new assessment."  - TEA

While we will have to wait to see what the Department of Education decides to do, Williams and Cheers already don't have much confidence in their decision.

"But I just hope whatever the state does, it does not have a negative consequence on children and teachers," Williams said.

"If the system is not reliable, how can you properly grade someone," Cheers said.

The Department of Education said it will share the revised testing window with districts by Thursday, February 11.

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