House Took Swing to Empower Tennessee Parents

So what does $360 million dollars buy?  Apparently an ongoing saga of chaos, frustration, tears and stress.  As we’ve seen in previous years gone by, this year’s TNReady has been plagued with issues.

Today, in an 11th hour Hail Mary attempt, legislators moved to empower parents and hold teachers harmless, from this year’s disastrous state testing, TNReady, otherwise known as TnNotReady.TNready not ready meme

Representative Andy Holt (R – Dresden) sponsored an amendment that would provide parents with the option to “opt out” after numerous parents voiced their concern and lack of confidence in the testing, as well as the privacy of the student’s data, following a security issue with Questar, the state’s vendor.

House members also sought to prevent student growth scores from being factored into teachers’ evaluations and, at one point, holding the $37.5 billion state budget hostage, refusing to send it to Governor’s desk, after the Senate had shut down, without a vote.  The move brought the legislature to a stand still and provided for some tense and theatrical moments.

Rep. Eddie Smith, (R – Knoxville) stood firm, saying. “If you don’t understand – from the district to the superintendents – that we want our teachers held harmless, then I’m sorry, you’re tone-deaf,”

States use federal funds however, they do not have the mandate, to tie teacher evaluations to testing.. Only a few states have taken advantage of the testing flexibility that is provided for via, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) allows.  In fact, the US Secretary of Education is explicitly prohibited from mandating any aspect of a teacher evaluation system.

The question at hand is, how do we move forward.  Do we continue to link teacher evaluations to high stakes testing?  Stressing our kids out?  Setting up our special needs students for frustration and failure?  Or do we the parents finally put our collective foot down and demand better? What does “better” look like?

If you are the parent of an IEP student, of course you want the student’s teachers evaluated by whether or not they actually educate, or just fluff the grades and shuffle the student along ….. BUT …. with the issues related to the administering of the testing, few, if any, hold confidence that what we currently have accomplishes that.

While most Tennesseans were watching the 10 o’clock news thru the tops of our toes, the Tennessee General Assembly was on still on the floor making the news.  The House accomplished their goal – at least in part – while the “opt out” amendment & matters related to student privacy were stripped, the Senate returned and voted unanimously to pass SB578 to hold harmless the teachers, schools, LEA based on student achievement data, via 2017-18 TNReady.  The House voted the same, via HB75.

This news from the legislature is applaud worthy.  Their effort and accomplishment is respected – however, sans an “opt out” option, students will return to school tomorrow,  oblivious of all this hullabaloo, and continue enduring the frustration that is TnNotReady instead of benefiting from academic instruction time in the classroom.

Sine Die tnlegAnd with that, the session is officially SINE DIE.  That’s a wrap for the 110th General Assembly.

UPDATE:  While tnleg may have adjourned, students returned to the classroom on Thursday, April 26th and again endured the suffrage that is the administering of this testing.  Once again Questar could not deliver the product that Tennessee taxpayer have paid for.  The entire system crashed leaving students unable to submit this answers – that is, those who were able to sign on, at all.  The explanation for this disruption was that a fiber line was “cut” somewhere between Atlanta and Nashville.  We’ll add that to the laundry list of “reasons”
(1)  System crash – unknown
(2)  System breached via hacking
(3) Questar updated their systems, mid testing season,  deleting over 900 students from the system
(4)  Fiber Optic line damaged

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