A Few More Thoughts on Testing in Tennessee…

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen soundly responded to Metro Nashville Schools Director Shawn Joseph and Shelby County Superintendent Dorsey Hopson very bluntly in a straightforward letter yesterday. It is doubtful that either Joseph or Hopkins actually wrote the letter, which called for a “pause” in testing and convene a statewide working group of educators to look at testing. McQueen stated that neither she or Governor Bill Haslam received the letter that got widespread media coverage. She also pointed out that “both state and federal law require an annual statewide assessment.”

Some may argue that states have more flexibility, which is true to an extent. We should take a hard look at Tennessee’s ESSA plan and certainly make necessary adjustments. But we identified our own measures of progress and agreed to take certain actions in order to receive federal monies. Like that or not, it is how the game is played. When Tennessee was touting Race to the Top money, the state certainly jumped through even more hoops to get those dollars.

Dr. McQueen, who serves at the pleasure of the Governor, must follow state and federal laws. Joseph and Hopson have their own Boards of Education they must listen to on policy issues. Policy analysts TC Weber and Andy Spears have both weighed in on the subject, as has Sharon Roberts. Professional Educators of Tennessee added our opinion on the subject. All stakeholders want to get testing right. However, the emphasis on testing misses the bigger issue: student academic growth measured by flawed testing. Then the results being used in educator evaluations. This is certainly more problematic to educators than the actual tests themselves.

Once the Tennessee Department of Education gets testing corrected, then we, as a state, can refocus on discussing what should or shouldn’t be included in teacher evaluations. It is clear: flawed testing equals faulty evaluations. This is no way to measure the success or failure of our students, teachers or schools. This issue isn’t going away. Stay tuned.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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