Williamson County teachers will not be head accountable on teacher evaluations for TNReady scores for this school year.
The school board voted 11-1 Monday night on a resolution regarding the state’s new online standardized tests, which were not ready for students due to a technical failure of the MIST platform on which TNReady runs. All school districts, which had been preparing to take the test on the Internet, will now be testing on pencil and paper.
The resolution calls for “a full waiver from utilizing data from TNReady for the use of teacher evaluations,” and urges the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Department of Education to use measures other than TNReady and the new assessments in determining and implementing school and district accountability.
Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney first proposed the measure during last month’s school board work session in anticipation of technical difficulties by the state. Once the state announced that the Internet test would no longer be given, Dr. Looney presented the resolution to the board.
The percentage of teacher evaluations addressing standardized tests has already been dropped by the legislature from 35 to 10 percent due to the new tests. Parent group Williamson Strong has been advocating for the test to be removed from teacher evaluations as well.
There was unanimous support initially for the resolution, which asks lawmakers to change accountability requirements, which are partially required by the federal government as well. All board members, in fact, were still in favor of holding teachers harmless, however Susan Curlee proposed changing the resolution during the school board meeting to challenge the idea that tests are a good way of measuring success and accountability, an idea she felt was included in the proposal.
The section in question states, “the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Board of Education, and the local boards of education has established nationally recognized standards and measures of accountability in public education.”
“What we saw with the TNReady failure from a systems standpoint is a symptom of a much bigger problem, that high stakes testing in and of itself is broken.”
Curlee proposed a rewrite of the resolution to include stronger language concerning standardized testing as well as the efficacy of the national, Common Core, standards. She also said she would support passing a shorter, simpler statement in order to have time to take the resolution back to work on.
“I would love to see this board come up with a very strong statement to the Tennessee Department of Education that says that as of right now, we have no confidence in using these test scores for our kids, for our teachers. We want to see some changes. And I think that also starts with pointing out some of the flaws in the system.”
Dr. Looney said he would not support any changes being made during the meeting, and if the board wanted to continue working on it, they should take it back to a work session. He defended the content of the resolution saying, “It communicates the primary concerns that we have to the department without punching them in the face.”
“My intent was not to be political,” he said. “It was simply to communicate to our higher authority, the legislature and the Tennessee Department of Education, that we don’t believe that it would be in the best interest of our students, our teachers, or our schools for this to count.”
Jay Galbreath asked if students should be explicitly included in the resolution since they are currently not. Dr. Looney echoed comments made by Director of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Tim Gaddis saying it was a “practical impossibility” that the state would return results in time to count in student grading.
The board passed the resolution 11-1, with Curlee voting against.
“Perhaps every district in the state of Tennessee is going to pass some sort of resolution,” Dr. Looney said. But the fight will not be easy. In order to discount state standardized test results, not only does state law have to change, but the federal Department of Education also has to grant a waiver of accountability.