'Deliberate attack' blamed for most recent TNReady delays - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

'Deliberate attack' blamed for most recent TNReady delays

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Frustrations boiled over when the TNReady test, which is required for all high school students and most middle school students in Tennessee, ran into problems again Tuesday.

"How long are we going to continue to make excuses for this failed test," Rep. Antonio Parkinson said in the state capitol Tuesday.

Parkinson learned that the tests hit yet another snag Tuesday while he was on the House floor in Nashville. So he brought up his concerns during an official government meeting.

"How much more talking are they going to do? When will there be action?" Parkinson said.

Students struggled to log in and take their TN Ready tests Tuesday. That happened a day after the tests were supposed to start--but failed because of technical problems.

"We had students that were in tears this morning, because they had worked on these essays and when it came time to submit the system would not let them submit them," Lakeland Schools Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell said. "Very disappointing."

State leaders said the two incidents were unrelated. They said Tuesday's problem was likely due to Minnesota-based Questar being targeted in a cyber attack. 

Questar reset its systems and was able to fix the problem.

Questar became the vendor for TNReady two years ago when another vendor botched the rollout of the online testing system.

Tennessee is currently paying Questar $30 million a year.

Lakeland Schools Board of Education chairman drafted a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. The letter asks both state leaders to suspend the online testing known as TNReady.

"We spent obviously the better part of the year making sure we are ready for these assessments, and then when it comes time to take the assessments, the system is not ready for them," Horrell said.

The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) in a statement is calling for a full accounting of the problems and how they affect students, parents, and teachers.

"TEA and its members are extremely disappointed with the failures and delays of the state online assessment system, TNReady. TEA is calling for a full and accurate accounting of the problems and how they affect students, along with proof that the system is secure and fair to Tennessee’s parents and teachers. The association is calling on lawmakers to hold students, teachers and schools in light of the failures and growing concerns of the state testing system harmless.

TEA is pleased the House and Senate are holding an immediate hearing on the testing issue.     

“Students and teachers across the state are told these are high-stakes tests. Teachers’ jobs are on the line, students’ futures are on the line,” said TEA President Barbara Gray. “That is the environment put upon every parent, every child, and every educator with TNReady. Now the test has been offline for two days, damaging the integrity of Tennessee testing.”

In some districts, students were able to log in, but the system would not allow them to submit finished exams. Some students were disrupted mid-exam. The State Department of Education has indicated completed work was saved on the local device students were using, but teachers and administrators must remember and document which student used which computer. It is unclear how much student assessment work was saved or lost during the failure of the online system over the past two days.  

“Student morale is a key component of how well a student does on a test. Losing work, being disrupted mid-exam, and constant delays affect students negatively. We are concerned this will impact scores to the detriment of students, teachers and schools,” Gray said. “We are approaching a point where the entire testing system is becoming questionable. Students who start and stop exams may suffer emotionally or become distrustful, which may hurt concentration.”    

Parents’ concerns are also growing. While the state says there is no evidence that student data or information has been compromised when the vendor said their system was hacked, there have been no guarantees the testing program protected student information. 

“Many teachers are also parents, and when we hear the online testing system has been deliberately hacked, we fear for our children’s personal information,” Gray said."

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