Parents in every public school system in Tennessee will be able to go online next year and review the assortment of different standardized tests their children will take during the coming year.
In a move toward transparency at a time when the volume of K-12 testing is under scrutiny, the 108th Tennessee General Assembly approved legislation this session that will require the Tennessee Department of Education and local school districts to post on their websites no later than Aug. 1 information on state-mandated tests.
Districts will have to include the purpose and use of the test; the grade or class in which the test is to be administered; the tentative dates on which the test will be administered; and how and when parents and students will be informed of test results.
By 2015-16, local school systems will have to include such information in student handbooks that are sent to parents.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, and Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, is headed to Gov. Bill Haslam's desk after the bill enjoyed unanimous support in both chambers, clearing the House 93-0 and the Senate 31-0.
"I've had parents across the state ask me to make sure they can be notified of testing," Butt said. "This is very important to them."
According to Metro Nashville Public Schools spokesman Joe Bass, Metro's website has contained such information for "a few years now" and is updated annually.
Testing in Tennessee and elsewhere has been debated more than ever, with concerns often targeted at age appropriateness. Some critics have opted out their children from assessments even though Tennessee lacks a law authorizing that practice. Legislation that would have granted the ability to opt out died in committee.
Others have complained that something as simple as knowing which tests will be used has been unavailable, or at least difficult to find, for parents — an area this bill seeks to fix.
In addition to end-of-year Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program testing, public school students take a range of assessments and practice assessments, some mandated by the state, others by districts. They start as young as kindergarten and vary by grade.
There had been plans to shift from the TCAP to the computer-based Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam, which is aligned with Common Core standards. A deal reached between the House and Senate has paved the way for a one-year delay before taking bids for an assessment for 2015-16.