Tennessee’s new TNReady achievement test is causing big shifts in public schools, and here’s one more: The timeline for receiving the first year of scores will be delayed from mid-summer until the fall.
That change — at least for the first year of TNReady — will affect the rhythms of teachers and administrators who typically pore over their incoming students’ most recent achievement test scores at the same time that those students and their families are purchasing back-to-school supplies.
With the release of the first year’s scores delayed until the fall of 2016, however, the school year already will have begun by the time the data arrives, impacting teachers’ ability to gauge their students’ academic abilities at the outset. And that delay is raising eyebrows at the classroom level.
“I want to be able to look at their scores from the previous year and understand where students are coming from,” said Teresa Alfuth, a Math III teacher at Soulsville Charter High School in Memphis. “I’m nervous about not being able to do that,”
The timeline change was revealed at a recent TNReady orientation session as State Department of Education leaders guided journalists through some of the changes that will accompany TNReady, Tennessee’s new standardized test for English/language arts and math for grades 3-11.
Among the most previously publicized changes: 1) taking the test online instead of using paper; and 2) more questions that are open-ended instead of multiple choice to discourage rote memorization and encourage critical thinking. State officials say the design of the new questions will make the assessment “harder go game.”
A less publicized change is that the release of the first year of TNReady scores will be delayed because the state will have to calibrate what the new grade-level benchmarks look like based on the first year of answers. To do that, a panel of state-appointed teachers will analyze the initial questions and answers next summer.
“In the first year of a new test, we know we need to bring in teachers across the state to help us determine what students need to do at each performance level,” said Nakia Towns, the assistant state commissioner of data and research. “Until teachers can engage in that work, we can’t provide results.”
The department also likely won’t be able to provide preliminary score information, known as “quick scores,” to local districts until after the end of the instructional year for the majority of districts. Since 2010, quick scores have been incorporated into end-of-year grades on student report cards. But because of next year’s anticipated quick score delay, state education leaders say districts will be able to create their own policy regarding the use of TCAP scores in end-of-year grades.
After the first year, the state expects to return to the tradition of releasing scores by mid-summer.