Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today the approval of recommendations that will reduce student testing in 2018-19. The recommendations are the first to be released by the state's third Task Force on Student Testing and Assessment - which includes educators, parents, and education leaders from across the state - and they resulted from months of analysis and discussion, as well as additional surveys of high school teachers and parents.
In addition to today's recommendations, Commissioner McQueen also announced additional ways the state will further reduce testing in Tennessee next year. Altogether, these steps will reduce the number and length of student tests and streamline the assessment administration.
The task force's recommendations for 2018-19, which Commissioner McQueen affirms, are to:
- Eliminate the TNReady chemistry end-of-course exam; instead, the department will provide a chemistry test form as an option for local administration and scoring
- Eliminate the TNReady English III end-of-course exam; additionally, the department will prioritize adding a statewide dual credit English composition option that will be available beginning in 2019-20
- Collaborate with the Tennessee Board of Regents to use the TNReady U.S. History end-of-course exam as a dual credit exam and help students earn college credit from their TNReady score
In addition, next year the department will:
- Eliminate the stand-alone field test for at least the next two years
- Reduce time on the TNReady English language arts exam in grades 3 and 4 to make it a combined 78 minutes shorter; this will not impact the ability to generate TVAAS, and the department will still generate scores across all four performance levels
While Tennessee students spend less than 1 percent of the school year taking state-required assessments, the department has taken steps over the past three years to reduce the burden of testing on students and provide a more positive and efficient assessment experience. In addition to the task force's recommendations for removal, they also re-affirmed the value and need for the current TNReady exams in grades 3-8, as well as the other end-of-course tests.
"Since my first day as commissioner, I have been listening to and learning from teachers and parents across the state, and repeatedly I hear that we must make every effort to protect instructional time," Commissioner McQueen said. "At the same time, we hear from our teachers, advocates, and parents how important our state test is in providing big-picture feedback about how our students are doing and guiding future instruction. We believe these reductions and adjustments reflect our commitment to reduce testing where we can and streamline administration while still providing this key feedback loop and meaningful information for teachers, administrators, and parents."
More context on these improvements
The 2017-18 year is the third year for the state's TNReady exam, which is designed to see what students know and are able to do in alignment with the Tennessee Academic Standards. Since the introduction of TNReady, the department has continually sought to improve our state test administration, and Commissioner McQueen reconvened the task force in fall 2017 to further study and identify best practices in testing at the school, district, and state level.
TNReady provides a check on whether students are on track to be ready for college and career expectations. Given this alignment, the department has been collaborating with TBR, which oversees the state's community colleges and colleges of applied technology, to allow students to earn college credit from their score on TNReady as they would on a dual credit exam in areas where standards and content overlaps, such as on the U.S. History exam. Given today's recommendations, the department will continue to work with TBR and other higher education partners to further this conversation.
Today's recommendations will reduce the length of time Tennessee's younger students spend taking TNReady, as well as reduce the amount of assessments most often taken by students in their junior year of high school. These grades are often noted as having longer testing experiences, and a goal for the assessment task force has been to examine the testing experience for students in those grades specifically. For example, almost 80 percent of juniors take the English III exam, and about half of juniors take the chemistry exam.
In addition to the elimination and reduction of operational assessments, the department is ending the stand-alone field test in every grade for at least the next two years. Currently, the field test is given to about one-third of students every year. Field tests are not reportable and do not factor into students' scores or educators' evaluations, but they provide the department with information to develop future assessments. Instead of doing the separate test, the department will continue the practice of including a few field test questions within the regular exam while maintaining a seamless testing experience for the student.
Today's adjustments complement additional steps the department has taken in recent years, including:
- Cutting the social studies and science tests in half for grades 3 and 4
- Eliminating the second testing window and moving administration into one timeframe as close to the end of the year as possible
- Breaking the test into smaller sections so it can fit into the typical school bell schedule, and providing local flexibility on when and how to schedule TNReady exams
- Providing an opportunity for seniors to retake the ACT for free
- Eliminating the SAT-10, Explore, and Plan exams
- Creating better score reports for teachers and parents