Hundreds of teachers describe TNReady testing confusion, chaos in new report

The problems that plagued online testing in Tennessee schools this year are no secret. But a new 1,700-page report gives what is, perhaps, the most comprehensive account of just how confused, unprepared, frustrated, and angry educators were with the process.

Survey responses, comprising comments from hundreds of teachers across the state, were released Wednesday, along with a state comptroller’s audit of the testing program, known as TNReady. The audit blamed the testing company, Questar, for the majority of problems and admonished the state’s education department for inadequate oversight.

The survey asked teachers to respond to prompts like, Please describe what additional training you would have liked to receive to more effectively administer the TNReady tests. Respondents reported getting last-minute instructions about how to proctor the tests. Many said they received no training at all. Some said they had been given sample problems without answers. 

“Teachers should have their manuals before the day of test,” one teacher wrote.

Others described confusing, and sometimes contradictory, instructions they were supposed to read to students. Some pleaded for a return to paper tests.

But mostly, teachers spoke about computer glitches that prevented students from completing tests, submitting tests, and logging in to tests. And they said they were ill-prepared to troubleshoot.

“I could not help students solve their computer problems. I had to find helpers in the hallways to come to my room to help the students,” one teacher wrote.

“This was the worst testing experience in eleven years of teaching,” another teacher reported. “Systems were crashing; testing continued to go offline; submissions were not able to progress as normal. Other students couldn’t log in at all. Overall, this testing environment was not conducive for assessment for knowledge learned. Moreover, students were emotionally and mentally drained by the time actual testing could occur.”

Beyond the computer issues, teachers said because they weren’t given testing instructions early enough, they often didn’t know how long certain testing sections were to last. That meant they couldn’t so much as schedule restroom breaks. They also described frustrated and stressed-out students.

Some teachers critiques transcended technical issues — and registered their displeasure with the entire testing process.

“Do we really need weeks of testing for politicians to tell us that kids in poverty underperform those that are more affluent? It has always been,” said one teacher.

According to another: “I teach 1st grade so I was not directly involved in giving the test this year, however, I have been teaching 26 years so I am familiar with testing. While the rest of the school spent several weeks preparing, practicing, and TRYING to take the test, I was TEACHING and my students were LEARNING. When you add up all the TIME and MONEY that was wasted on the entire mess it is a shame! I don’t understand why so much testing is necessary unless it is just to create jobs for state department workers and of course make a lot of money from the taxpayers. That money could be better spent EDUCATING the students. TESTING is not EDUCATING!”

The entire 1,700-page report can be found here.