How much TNReady affects final grades is likely to change again — but just for Tennessee’s youngest students

Young learners don’t need extra motivation to do well on Tennessee’s standardized test, say backers of a bill that could lessen the weight of students’ scores on their final report cards in grades 3-8.

That bill appears poised to become law. It’s already passed the House, and the Senate Education Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to advance the measure to the Senate floor.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham and Rep. John Forgety, would provide local districts with greater flexibility to change how much TNReady counts on students’ final grades up to the eighth grade. For grades 3-5, districts could choose to exclude the scores altogether.

Specifically, the legislation would let school boards adjust the range between:

  • 0 to 25 percent for grades 3-5
  • 10 to 25 percent for grades 6-8

Currently, state law requires that — beginning in the third grade — TNReady scores count for 15 percent of final grades this school year and between 15 and 25 percent beginning next school year.

The new percentages could kick in as soon as this spring if local school boards choose. However, the weighting would not change for high schoolers.

As in past years, districts could opt to exclude TNReady altogether if scores are not received from the state’s testing company at least five instructional days before the end of the school year. Late scores have been a problem in the past.

The change is supported by the Tennessee Department of Education, which has tweaked the impact of TNReady scores on student grades and teacher evaluations since the failed rollout of the state’s new test in 2016. First, the testing company’s new online platform crashed, then numerous delivery delays of printed testing materials prompted the state to cancel tests that year for grades 3-8.

The bill is about providing local flexibility, especially for Tennessee’s youngest students, said Elizabeth Fiveash, assistant education commissioner.

“The original intent of the law was to ensure that there was sort of skin in the game for students so that they took the assessment seriously,” she told the Senate committee. “But in grades 3 through 5, they are young excited learners so it’s not as much of an issue in the earlier grades.”