TNReady scores won't count against elementary and middle schools after the Tennessee State Board of Education officially gave a reprieve to districts due to this year's failed testing effort.
The state board voted unanimously Friday to approve the reprieve during a special session, but not before voicing concerns about how the Tennessee Department of Education will prevent the issue from happening again next year.
"We have all been deeply embarrassed by this," said board member Lillian Hartgrove.
By eliminating accountability measures for grades 3-8 statewide, the board gave a nod to the issues that arose this year from TNReady and cut out those scores from the lists that designate school performance.
This year’s scores for grades 3-8 won’t be used to determine priority schools in 2017. That list will be determined by an average of the 2014-15 and 2016-17 scores, according to Nakia Towns, assistant commissioner of data and research. But the state also won't have data on reward schools this year, which are some of the top performing in the state.
High schools won't receive the same treatment, however.
The Department of Education is still required to provide all other student achievement data for the 2015-16 school year, including graduation rate, average ACT scores, and high school scores in end-of-course subjects, according to the motion.
The issue with TNReady arose in February after test vendor Measurement Inc. failed to support the number of online tests to students on the level the state required. The problems led to the state ordering paper tests, which then were twice not delivered on time to districts.
In April, the department canceled its contract with Measurement Inc.
But a Tennessean investigation also found the General Services' Central Procurement Office and the Department of Education knew the company was inexperienced in administering online tests on a mass scale and that questions had arisen from other states about the company's online testing platform.
State board members had plenty of questions for Towns about the Department of Education's plan to ensure other issues don't occur, with board member Mike Edwards asking whether the department will look at the qualifications of vendors before contracting with them.
Board member Wendy Tucker also asked numerous questions on how the department can prevent another snafu from occurring next year.
Tennessee is looking for a new vendor to administer TNReady next year.
The Department of Education has paid $1.6 million to Measurement Inc. to create the tests and recently contracted with Pearson Education for $18.5 million to score tests. The department has said scoring is the most costly part of the standardized testing process.
Towns, however, said she couldn't answer questions about the procurement process, but the state board should schedule an additional hearing with the state's procurement office for further details.