Maryville school officials hope paper TNReady testing remains temporary

Local News

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – TNReady testing is quickly approaching. The standardized testing is required from the third grade through the junior year of high school. 

For 2019, schools will administer paper tests for third through eighth grade students, and online tests for the high schoolers. In 2020, they’ll all be back to paper. 

Governor Bill Lee’s office announced the move Thursday and called it temporary. The testing has been a challenge for the state. As the new commissioner of education seeks to find a new vendor, scheduled testing this year will go on as planned. 

While Mike Winstead, director of Maryville City Schools, said he is disappointed they’ll be handing out paper tests next year, and called it a step back, he said he’s fine with the change for one year and hopes it helps strengthen online testing long term.

“I think online testing has to be a conversation in there and something we strive to do,” he said. 

In total, MCS will give roughly 2,000 tests. Winstead estimated the load for Knox County Schools at more than 20,000 online tests since they’re 10 times the size of his district. 

MCS made the decision to embrace technology, invest in more fiber to increase speed, and provide a tablet or laptop to each student before online testing began in Tennessee. Winstead said the district also sees value in a balanced approach, providing books and printed material, in addition to technology. 

Winstead said their schools have had very few issues out of TNReady testing since it began three years ago, but he acknowledged it has been a headache for other districts. He doesn’t just support online standardized tests. He’s in favor of expanding it to lower grades.

“Manipulating graphs or clicking a multiple choice answer and all that, our kids are doing that in second and third grade. I think that’s where we want them to be one day,” he said.

Testing is set to begin soon for the district, and he said he feels confident it will be a success, especially considering the high school already underwent testing in the fall, due to their block scheduling. 

Stacey Travis, a math teacher at Maryville High School, shares his disappointment. Travis also said she’s excited the new education commissioner is slowing the process of finding a new vendor but also hopes paper testing is only one year.

“We’re preparing our kids for the future, for their world in college and career and it’s digital,” she said. 

Because students do some classwork, homework, dual-enrollment courses and ACT testing online currently without issue, she feels strongly in the benefit of online testing.

“I’m going to really have to think about how I assess my students next year. We do a lot of assessments online, and if they’re going to take a paper test, I’m going to have to make some changes for them to feel like there is some continuity between what they see in the classroom and what they’re seeing online testing.”

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