The Coffee Press

I’ve Had a Change of Heart

George Gannon, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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You know what? I take back everything I said that was negative about TNReady. This year, the test rolled out more successful than ever. The first week only had a few major problems, like Monday’s login lockout, Tuesday’s cyber subversion, and Thursday’s accountability amendment. The second week, a dump truck took out the trash-literally and figuratively- by destroying a fiber optic line and sending us into a first-world dark age. Sure, all that happened,  but now everything will be good.

Right?

In case you can’t tell, I am being completely sarcastic. This entire scenario has played out like a joke that was funny the first time, but has gradually gotten more and more infuriating every time you hear it. Finally, in a groundbreaking and unheard of maneuver, the state said, “enough is enough” and put forward a bill for school systems to optionally not make the tests a grade for students, and go back to paper. Sounds like a plan. BUT there is something that I didn’t mention. Does it count for the school system?

Luckily, no. In a bill passed in early May, it was formally decided that the scores could be used only if the system chose to do so. But before some tests were even taken, it had already been decided by the governor that they wouldn’t count for students.

Get ready for 2017-18’s TNReady “I don’t care” Syndrome 2.0. We’ve been led to believe by the state that the tests won’t count for us. The data that is about to be collected is going to dig us even deeper. Last year it was already bad because we took the tests assuming they weren’t going to count. This year, though, we took the tests, and we knew they weren’t going to count. Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for even more enrichments? In other words, low scores equal more RTI classes making it necessary to interrupt instructional time for enrichment. 

But, that’s not the main issue I see with this TNReady catastrophe. I am disappointed in our state legislators. It has taken this long to do something about the problem that keeps coming back every year. They keep paying these incompetent companies exorbitant figures, and receiving disappointment every time. Just imagine for a second, especially in one of the fastest growing states in a post-recession America, how that money could have been spent.  

In other words, 107,000,000 over five years can go a long way. Instead of investing it in a broken testing company, the state could have put it into career and technical education. By investing into programs that prepare students with real-world skills, the next generation of workers for Tennessee could have been ready for the exponential growth our state is encountering. More than ever, our state needs skilled workers who have knowledge and experience from their high school education. People cannot find their true passions if they spend a majority of their time preparing for broken tests.

But alas, here we are. We spent about three weeks testing for nothing instead of preparing for AP tests and dual enrollment which are actually for college credit. I’ve got some ideas to push forward so that we might be able to pull off this “moron-athon”. I know what you are thinking.

“You’re just a kid. What do you know about public policy?”

To that I say: You don’t have to be a chef to say food tastes like garbage.

First of all, cut the online aspect. It is nice to able to submit tests instantly and type them quickly, but what do we do when the internet grid comes falling down like the London Bridge? Go to paper. Second, drop Questar. Why, I ask, do we contract a company from Minnesota? Minnesota’s students are not going to be the same as Tennessee’s. Also why did we choose Questar, who has had bad reviews from every state for whom they have worked.  Why can’t we go for a familiar industry name like Pearson? Third, streamline the test. We can hardly get the tests graded. If the method we used for grading tests were modeled after the college board, who can grade over four million tests in the span of two months, maybe they could actually get the scores back.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t grade teachers based on their students’ performances. It leads to plenty of well intentioned teachers being regarded as inferior because most people taking the test have no accountability.

I guess at the end of the day, I won’t have to deal with any of this ever again. I am definitely optimistic about the future of testing, as our lawmakers have taken the steps necessary to end this scourge once and for all. There is still much work to be done.

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I’ve Had a Change of Heart