Following two years of log-in problems and failed testing processes with the state’s mandatory testing apparatus TNReady (which administers the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program), Coffee County Schools issued a vote of no confidence and implored the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Department of Education to choose what assessment they give to students.
The move, which was accepted unanimously by the school board on Monday, Oct. 8 at Deerfield Elementary School, was put forth by Coffee County Education Association (CCEA) President and Coffee County Central High School English teacher Mike Stein. Stein, and CCEA Vice-President Ryan Sulkowski, sent a petition to Director of Schools LaDonna McFall.
The petition stated, “We, the members of the Coffee County Education Association, believe the state’s TNReady testing system unfairly penalizes students, teachers and schools, and is not a valid measure of student achievement, teacher effectiveness or school performance. The portfolio system has also failed to produce accurate and reliable data to measure teacher performance. It is critical that the Coffee County Board of Education support our students, teachers, and schools by pressuring the State Department of Education and the Tennessee General Assembly to act in the best interest of student learning.”
It urged the Board of Education to support a vote of no confidence and to “call on the state to suspend the use of data from standardized tests and portfolios until the system can prove years of consistent functioning with full transparency.”
Though Coffee County Schools were not as affected as much as other districts, the CCEA implored the board to find a reliable means of testing that measured stand-alone measures of student achievement, teacher effectiveness, or school performance.
During the meeting Board of Education President Brent Henley explained the state offers SAT and ACT, both of which reflect accurate measurements of college readiness. The tests have been used for decades and are reliable across all grading platforms, he added. Additionally, all public school students must participate in the SAT or ACT.
Because of this, paired with the continuous shortfalls of TNReady, the board moved to accept the resolution, which states, “The Coffee County Board of Education implores the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Department of Education to allow school districts the opportunity to select either the math, science, and English language arts assessments provided by the State of Tennessee or an English, science, or math test that is part of the suites of standardized assessments available from either ACT or SAT.”
McFall will be sending the resolution to the Tennessee General Assembly and TDOE.
“I applaud Dr. McFall and the Coffee County School Board for passing this resolution and making a profound statement to the Tennessee Department of Education and to the Tennessee Legislature that TNReady needs to be gone,” Stein said. “I understand that Gov. Haslam recently went on a TNReady listening tour and drew the conclusion that teachers want TNReady to be fixed. This isn't true. He only talked to 120 teachers, and those events were invite-only.
“The truth is that teachers and students have lost complete confidence in TNReady--both in the test's ability to accurately measure and report on what students have learned and in the state's ability to administer the test without any issues,” he continued.
“Ideally, I would like for there to be more local control of testing by allowing teachers the opportunity to give their students a pre-test and post-test to demonstrate student proficiency and growth…I sincerely hope that other rural school districts in Tennessee take a hard look at this resolution and pass their own version in swift order,” he concluded.
How this affects students
Coffee County Schools faced difficulties logging in and submitting tests during the 2017-18 year of testing, but the district was not hit as hard as other areas.
“When some of the larger districts decided to cancel testing for the day we did not, we continued to test when there was less ‘traffic’ in terms of bandwidth, etc. We did have some difficulties with logging in and submitting tests,” McFall said in an email.
If the state’s general assembly and TDOE adopt the resolution, Coffee County Schools will have the ability to administer ACT and SAT testing instead of TCAP, administered through TNReady.
ACT has a suite of tests that could substitute for some grade levels/subjects, therefore grades 3-8, which are too young to take the ACT or SAT, will not be left without choices.