After online testing failure, Tennessee students take new TNReady assessment the old-fashioned way

Less than a month after technical problems caused the state to cancel the official debut of its online assessment, the majority of Tennessee’s 142 school districts have received printed materials for students to take the test with pencil and paper.

But printing capacity issues have caused delayed shipments to about a dozen districts that were scheduled to receive their printed tests and answer sheets by now. Those districts are:

  • Tennessee Achievement School District
  • Bartlett
  • Hamblen County
  • Maury County
  • Madison County
  • Murfreesboro City
  • Putnam County
  • Robertson County
  • Sevier County
  • Sullivan County
  • Tipton County
  • Wilson County

The delays have made an already challenging testing year more challenging for districts awaiting their shipments.

Students in Dickson County Schools were scheduled to start taking the test on Monday, but Superintendent Danny Weeks delayed the assessment until March 7 after learning late last week that their printed materials had not been shipped, according to a report in The Dickson Herald.

The district has since received the materials but, in an earlier phone alert to parents, Weeks said the delay “further complicates the already difficult transition from traditional testing to TNReady tests.”

“Additionally, tests must be unboxed, labeled, and organized once they arrive at schools,” Weeks told parents.

The Tennessee Department of Education has been using eight printers across the nation to produce the materials and, as of Monday, nearly 1 million tests had been distributed statewide, said spokeswoman Ashley Ball.

Ball said 120 districts now have the printed materials in hand, and many school systems already have completed the tests. Last week alone, about 60 districts completed TNReady, she said.

Tennessee’s larger districts are scheduled to take TNReady later during the state’s new Feb. 22-March 18 testing window, since those printing jobs are bigger.

Assessment overseers for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools began this week waiting anxiously to see if their printed materials will arrive before scheduled tests in high school subjects.

“Should materials for any of our high schools or middle schools not come in time to begin testing on Wednesday, we will adjust the testing calendar as necessary,” wrote Paul Changas, Metro Nashville’s executive director of research, assessment and evaluation, in an email last Friday to district principals.

As of Monday, Ball said eight Nashville high schools had received their materials, and the rest were expected to receive them by Tuesday.

She said all districts should receive TNReady materials by March 8.

Testing for TNReady, the state’s new assessment for math and English language arts, had been scheduled to take place between Feb. 8 and March 4 via a a new online platform for which the state and districts had spent years preparing. But on the first day of online testing, major network outages on the platform developed by testing company Measurement Inc. brought the process to a halt. Within hours, state education officials scrapped this year’s online assessment and announced that the entire state would revert to paper-based tests.

State officials, teachers, parents and students have been challenged by the change, which has required a shift in classroom lesson plans and schedules while districts have waited for the testing materials to be printed and shipped. In response to frustration by educators, Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed giving teachers the option to waive test scores from their evaluations this school year.

Ball said delayed testing should not further push back the release of student scores, slated for this fall. 

This is the first year that Tennessee’s assessment has been aligned with the state’s current Common Core standards, and state officials have warned that scores likely will go down this year with the new test.

Editor’s note: This story updates a previous version with the list of districts waiting for materials and clarifies that only some have had to delay TNReady again due to delayed shipments.