Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen says students will take a new standardized test this upcoming school year, and details are coming soon.
That follows a botched roll-out of TNReady earlier this year.
Back in February, TNReady failed when an unforeseen technical problem on the vendor's end caused its online testing platform MIST to stop working. Then, the vendor - Measurement, Inc. - was unable to provide paper tests to all elementary and middle schools in time for testing deadlines.
In April, the state terminated its 5-year, $108 million contract with Measurement, Inc.
And last month, the Tennessee Board of Education made the break official, voting not to count TNReady test scores against elementary and middle school students.
"We obviously had some challenges with our test delivery, but the vision around our assessment remains the same," Commissioner McQueen told WBIR 10News in a one-on-one sitdown interview Friday in Nashville.
She said Tennessee is in an "emergency procurement process" of finding a new vendor.
With the school year approaching, the state is looking to name a company as soon as possible. It's looking at vendors that bid the first time around - several years ago - in addition to other companies that are up to the task.
McQueen said she knows the failure of the statewide standardized test TNReady was disruptive.
"We're sorry for what happened this past year," she said. "Certainly, this was a vendor challenge that we wish that we could have changed, and that was an unfortunate delivery challenge on the ground. It was felt, certainly, by our districts and by our teachers and by our students and families, and so we're very apologetic."
Since terminating its contract with Measurement, Inc., the state has been searching for a new vendor to develop and distribute a statewide standardized test.
"What are other vendors that are out there that we know have done this work?" McQueen said. "Let's make sure that we've done our homework and make decisions based on quality, based on, obviously, 'Can they do the work? Do they have a track record?'"
Knox County Schools interim superintendent Buzz Thomas said he supports the state's quest to develop a new test, after TNReady turned out to be not-so-ready.
"We were reminded again that education is a lot more than testing and technology," Thomas said. "I'm not sure exactly what (the new test is) going to look like, but I have a lot of confidence in commissioner McQueen. This wasn't her choice. She didn't even pick the vendor. She inherited the problem."
McQueen, who was sworn in as Education Commissioner in Jan. 2015, said her department hopes to release details about next year's test - and the vendor creating and administering it - sometime in early July.
"It will be a test that we believe will have many of the logistics challenges removed," McQueen said.
State lawmakers chose, several years ago, to reject federal Common Core standards and, instead, overhaul Tennessee's education standards, meaning new tests.
"It's the first time we've changed a test to this magnitude, in terms of statewide testing, in multiple decades," McQueen said, "so we knew it would always be a transition period."
In other words, growing pains were expected, and McQueen is hoping this year's testing process won't be so painful.
Altogether, the state has paid Measurement, Inc. just under $2 million, both McQueen and the company confirmed.
Measurement, Inc. president Henry Scherich claims the state has not paid his company for all the work it completed before the contract was terminated in April.
State officials question "certain issues that we want to be paid for," Scherich said, "so we've been gathering information about the number of students that were scored and the number of tests that were printed, so we can provide very concise information that we can both agree on."
"We've only paid invoices for work that has been delivered," McQueen told WBIR Friday.
She and Scherich confirmed the state and Measurement, Inc. are in settlement discussions together.
"We've been exchanging information about the finances of the project," Scherich said. "I hope we'll settle it all amiably...We'll have discussions, there'll be compromises, I'm sure, and hopefully we'll shake hands and leave friends after it's all over."
He declined to say how much money Measurement, Inc. is seeking from the state of Tennessee but hopes the process is wrapped up sometime in July.
Scherich did acknowledge the botched roll-out of TNReady.
"This will be a blemish on our corporate record, and every time we bid on a contract or do business with any other state or anything, they're all going to say, 'Well, what happened to you in Tennessee?'" he said. "For the next several years we'll be answering that question...(But) we've picked up new contracts and new business since February, since April 27, so our company has a good reputation and we do good work, and so we'll do alright."