’11th hour’ TNReady legislation may have violated federal law

Legislation approved in the waning hours of the General Assembly’s 2018 session –”while the sky seemed to be falling down around Tennessee’s computerized test” – may have violated federal law, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

The 11th-hour bills were a response to public outcry over TNReady, the state’s problem-plagued standardized assessment, including concerns that daily interruptions to the online version had made the results unreliable. The intent of the legislation was clear: “No adverse action may be taken” against any student, teacher, school, or district based on this year’s results.

Now, staff members with the state Department of Education are in daily talks with federal education officials over whether the legislation has put Tennessee out of compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal law that is also tied to funding. They expect to have an answer by next week.

The 2015 law requires states to test students annually in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and Tennessee will accomplish that this year, albeit in a rather messy fashion. But ESSA also requires states to create systems that hold schools accountable for performance based on several measures that include student achievement. That’s the sticky part for Tennessee, where TNReady scores provide that measure.

Thus, even as the state legislation has helped school communities feel a little better about TNReady woes, it has raised a flurry of new questions about Tennessee’s plan under ESSA.

If the scores don’t count, do chronically underperforming charter schools now get a pass from being closed this year? Can schools that continue to hover in Tennessee’s bottom 5 percent avoid state interventions? And how will Tennessee proceed with its plan to give schools A-F grades this fall — as also ordered by state lawmakers — if it can’t use standardized test scores to help grade them?

“We’re concerned that there’s now going to be zero accountability tied to these scores,” said Gini Pupo-Walker, who leads the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition and served on the state’s ESSA working group. “Accountability prompts action. And if you don’t have an assessment that gives you a sense of achievement and growth, you don’t know who your low-performing schools are in order to take action, and you don’t know where your bright spots are that we can celebrate and learn from.”

Added Charles Barone, national policy director for Democrats for Education Reform:

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could skip our annual reviews at work and avoid the discomfort of getting the feedback necessary to get better at what we’re paid to do? That’s what Governor (Bill) Haslam and the Tennessee legislature have just done for those charged with the responsibility of providing high-quality educational opportunities for every child.”

Note: The first bill passed was HB1981 (as amended), which has been signed by the governor. After it passed, some legislators – especially in the House – became concerned that the wording wasn’t clear enough and passed a second bill, HB75 (as amended). The latter measure still hasn’t been signed, according to the legislative website. Previous post HERE.

5 Responses to ’11th hour’ TNReady legislation may have violated federal law

  • James White says:

    If TN would quit taking funding from the Feds for Education, then they could fix education in Tennessee.

  • William Upton says:

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, education is not a priority in TN.

  • Michael Lottman says:

    Previous commentator is correct and the TNReady debacle shows it. The spectacular show of incompetence that has delayed real accountability for essentially all of Haslam’s term (and McQueen’s) is hard to view as anything but purposeful avoidance of any meaningful measure of progress or performance, or at the very least deliberate indifference. No one wants to hear it if teachers, schools, administrators, districts, or the system as a whole is not doing its job, or if the students are not learning the skills they need to succeed in college, work, or as members of society.

    • William Upton says:

      Amen to that! It’s a thorny problem to solve so certainly politicians don’t want to get involved with it.

  • Karen Bracken says:

    Well so much for LYING Lamar selling his garbage legislation by falsely convincing people that ESSA would return education control to the states. He was lying then and he still lies about it today. So does Candice McQueen and Betsy DeVos. It is time for parents to take matters into their own hands because our elected surely don’t have the guts to do it. Time to STARVE THE BEAST. GET YOUR KIDS OUT OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSYEM.

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