What Went Wrong?


George Gannon, Lifestyles and Entertainment Editor

Last Friday, I received my test score report from TNReady. Needless to say, the room got a little bit louder once all the reports were distributed. I began to think. The whole reason many of the people in this room will be assigned to academic supports is because of what’s on these three sheets of paper.

The neat thing about these reports is that they actually break down into percentages how students scored in the school and the state.  For example, it breaks down how many people scored proficiently at each of those levels. (Pretty nice if you ask me). I noticed a trend almost immediately.

On the English II test, 61% of students scored at or below Level Two which is Below Basic to Approaching standards. Guess what the percentage was at the state level? 62%.

On the Algebra II test, 75% of students scored at or below Level Two at the school level. Guess what the percentage was at the state level? 77%.

One can also look at the average scores on these two tests and see something else interesting. Our average is the same as the state’s. But both of those averages lie at level 2 or below.

Why is this the case? What kind of voodoo magic caused this to happen? What went wrong?

I have a theory.

I do not think this is a centralized problem. It isn’t just one thing. Oh, no!

It is a perfect storm that has been brewing for at least two years.

Flash-back to the first year of TNReady- 2016. The company that created the tests could not actually handle the online traffic of thousands of people taking their exam at once. It eventually crashed the server  and caused the third grade through eighth grade tests to be switched to paper. But then they couldn’t get those tests out fast enough, so the test ended up not being administered at all. This was a statewide problem that was so laughably bad, that even the state government looked at the “moron-athon” of a testing experience they had just paid $108 million dollars for and  said “Wow. This is a train wreck.”; this eventually led to the termination of their contract with Measurement Inc. (the testing company). What was happening on the high school end though?

We took the test. We took it that first year under the impression that our scores would be weighted with our final average. Well, that did not happen. Personally, I didn’t even get my scores back until the next year. Maybe it was just a first-year rollout problem? No. Even after switching testing companies, it was the same deal last year. I just got my scores back and as far as I’m aware, they’re not weighted into my final grade. Humorously enough, there is even evidence  recently of tests being scored completely wrong.

For the past two years, students and staff alike have been met with uncertainty on whether or not we will actually have the scores returned in time. Teachers are worried about their performance ratings. Students, actually, let me rephrase that: some students are worried about their scores being weighed into their grades. We are both in the same boat. What I think happened last year, though, is that we all knew something would mess up. We knew from how the year prior went that the scores would be delayed. Therefore, I think what happened statewide with the carpet bomb of bad test scores was not a lack of knowledge, but instead a lack of concern and determination. Take these thoughts for examples of what was going through our heads:

“Who cares if I fail this test? It’s not like it’s gonna’ be a grade. It wasn’t last year!”

“There is no incentive to scoring well. Just passing is all right, because in the event they actually grade these, I’ll still pass.”

Also, students who took the tests were automatically exempt from their semester exams, so many of them probably thought, “I just have to take it; I don’t have to do well.”

I do not believe the TNReady scores plummeting were due to an all of a sudden loss of teacher skill, or some kind of rampant student laziness pandemic that spreads through coughing, nor do I think it was necessarily all the state’s fault either. I do believe this though: a large number of students across the state had one of the Three mindsets from above. Now, sadly, everyone has to suffer for those who did not take the test seriously.