Memphis school board considers asking lawmakers to drop TNReady testing

Memphis school board members are calling on state lawmakers to scrap the state’s standardized test known as TNReady.

The request culminates months of complaints from Shelby County Schools board members who discussed excluding test scores from teacher evaluations before state lawmakers stepped in and reduced the scores’ impact on teachers and students last spring amidst online testing mishaps.

The panel has sharply criticized the state for its failure to implement a reliable online test for the nearly 1 million students in Tennessee, but until now has stopped short of asking state legislators to eliminate it.

The simple request was buried deep in the board’s proposed wish list for area state legislators to take to the General Assembly in January:

“The Shelby County Board of Education urges the Tennessee General Assembly to eliminate the Tennessee Department of Education’s use and reliance on TNReady.”

The school board is set to discuss their legislative agenda at its work session Tuesday, with a likely vote next week. The discussion will come a day after the state testing window for high school students in semester classes opened.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson, who reports to the school board, already declared “no confidence” in the state’s online delivery of its test in a joint letter with Nashville’s district leader Shawn Joseph in August. The superintendents asked Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen to pause state testing until issues were resolved.

The Knox County school board followed suit a few days later but expanded its critique to the whole Tennessee Department of Education that board chair Patti Bounds said “still takes no ownership” of its mistakes.

Related: Eighteen legislators show support for TNReady pause as 11 superintendents say press on

In response, McQueen, who is leaving her state post in January, said in a letter that a pause was not possible under federal law and would be “inconsistent with our values as a state.” Haslam, who is also leaving office in January, held a statewide listening tour in the fall to hear concerns about the state’s test and announced a technology funding program in response.

School board member Kevin Woods said Tuesday the board should be prepared “to respond to what we’re replacing it with” since the district uses test results in decisions to close schools and place students in competitive programs.

“I just want to make sure… that we have language that speaks to our opposition on what’s not working and our vision going forward,” Woods said.

Board member Stephanie Love previously said the district should look into creating its own assessment of student achievement and growth if problems with the state continue.

“We owe it to our teachers, to our parents, to our students to say ‘no more’ until the state of Tennessee can give us a test that we can trust and that we know will follow through from the beginning to the end,” Love said in April. “I think it’s time for us to come up with our own test to know where our children are, where they need to go and a plan to get them where they need to be so they can graduate and be successful.”