TNReady scores not ready for Knox County students

WATE 6 On Your Side staff - KNOXVILLE (WATE) - For the second year in a row, Knox County Schools is having issues with TNReady assessments.

A letter went out to parents Tuesday saying TNReady scores were not received by the end of the school year. Knox County School Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jon Rysewyk said the district opted to exclude TNReady scores from the final grades of students in grades 3-8.

"The state allows districts to make that choice if scores are not returned to the district within five days of them leaving for the summer," said Dr. Rysewyk Wednesday. "The original communication that we received from the commission is that we would receive it the week of the 22nd. We were hopeful that it was going to be the front end of the week and we haven't received it as of today."

Dr. Rysewyk said the district does plan to incorporate scores into final grades for high school students. He said report cards for those students should be available by June 5 on the parent portal.

The decision to exclude testing for grades 3-8, but not high school students was based on how grades are determined, according to Dr. Rysewyk. Elementary and middle schools grades are for the entire year, but high schoolers are graded by semester. Some high school students took the state test in the first semester and already had it in incorporated into their grade.

"In order to be equitable, in order to be consistent, we felt it was important to include the grade for the high school students, so the first students wouldn't have an advantage or disadvantage," said Rysewyk.

Rysewyk said after the state test scores come back, teachers will have a window where they can go in and verify the grade. Then it will be finalized and sent out in the parent portal.

Parents frustrated with TNReady testing

Several parents reached out to WATE 6 On Your Side with concerns about repeated issues with TNReady assessments.

After delays and setbacks for TNReady for the 2015-2016 school year, the Tennessee Department of Education finally terminated their contract with Measurements Inc., the provider of TNReady tests in 2016. The state suspended testing for grades 3-8 for the 2015-2016 year.

Previous story: Who's to blame? State, testing company at odds over canceled TNReady tests

In July 2016, The Tennessee Department of Education awarded a $60 million contract to develop and administer annual state assessment tests for the 2016-2017 school year to a company called Questar.

After the test was terminated, several parents spoke to WATE 6 On Your Side about their frustrations with problems that keep popping up with the test. They said it was frustrating because students and teachers lost hours of instruction time for the test.

Richard Ford, a parent of two students in the Knox County School system, sent WATE 6 On Your Side a letter addressed to Dr. Rysewyk demanding answers about what happened. He said he was upset that the news came just hours before the end of the school year.

"As a parent of two middle school students in the Knox County School System, one moving to high school in the fall, I was greeted with total, and utter disbelief in the message just sent to parents and guardians," said Ford in the letter. "It is incomprehensible to me how, after such a disastrous and embarrassing implementation last year for TNReady testing, a similar situation can be happening yet once again with what appears to be suppliers of services to Knox County Schools."

Ford goes on to say, "last year there was a printing problem, this year there was not enough time for scores to make it into final grades. This is utterly ludicrous, and in the private sector, compounding mistakes and repeated errors would have parties involved looking for new employment, while figuring out how to pay for potential breach of contract obligations. The amount of time that school staff put into this form of evaluation, not to mention the message that gets to students that their efforts will not be taken into consideration, is inexplicable."

Rysewyk said the district is also frustrated with the delay in scores. He says the state controls the contract, vendor and deadlines and all the school system can do is adhere to those deadlines.

"All I can say from our district side is we hit all of our deadlines as far as when the state asked us to have tests given, tests recollected, packaged to be sent and shipped, we hit all of the deadlines that we were supposed to hit from our side," said Rysewyk. "For that reason it is frustrating. We are as anxious as the parents are to see how we're doing as a district and how each student is progressing towards their goals."

Rysewyk said Knox County Schools in communication with the state about issues they are having with the new testing vendor. He said he has confidence the state will continue to make the process easier.

"We had planned for these scenarios about two weeks ago and knowing it was out of our control as far as when the state gets those numbers back to us. So we have different scenarios," said Rysewyk. "We felt we waited as long as we could."

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