Scathing state audit finds TNReady 'plagued' with issues

Teachers say students were 'mentally drained'
Posted at 11:02 AM, Dec 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-19 19:21:16-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A scathing new state audit released on Wednesday by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office found massive failures in the state’s TNReady test system. The controversial assessment test has left teachers frustrated, students confused and parents angered.

In the report released prior to a hearing on education, auditors said the test was, "plagued with numerous issues including login delays, slow servers and software bugs."

For months, Governor Haslam and outgoing Education Commissioner Candice McQueen have worked to address concerns around the yearly assessment test. But nearly 1,700 pages of comments attached to the audit, written by teachers, seem to indicate the largely flawed tests, have taken a massive toll on teacher morale.

"No one took the time to show us the system or print the manuals, our guidance department did a horrible job of preparing the staff," one teacher wrote.

"This was the worst testing experience in eleven years of teaching. Systems were crashing; testing continued to go offline; submissions were not able to progress as normal. Other students couldn’t log in at all. Overall, this testing environment was not conducive for assessment for knowledge learned. Moreover, students were emotionally and mentally drained by the time actual testing could occur," another wrote to state auditors.

The audit also found that many of the issues were primarily because Questar Assessment, Inc.’s performance and updates to the system.

As TNReady testing began on April 16, numerous issues were reported with the test, including the inability for students to be able to login or to save their tests. The problems continued through the end of the month. As a result, state officials have said they have begun the search for a new vendor for the 2019-2020 school year. For TNReady tests being administered this fall and spring though, Questar will still be the state's vendor, primarily because of constraint's facing Haslam's outgoing administration and because of a contract the state has made with the company.

The department and Questar worked to address the issues, including amending their current contract with the testing vendor for the coming school year.

Still though, in comments made by teachers in the audit, it appears there are massive hurdles state officials will have to overcome.

"The program screwed up so much we had to wait on the administrators to fix the computers one by one ... the issues we had were not computer issues they were server issues through Questar," one teacher recalled.

"Nothing is more frustrating to teachers (and the students who are trying to follow oral directions) than to watch a teacher unsure of the directions and have to reread them!" another said.

The performance audit’s nine findings include five issues surrounding TNReady, including:

  • the department’s lack of sufficient, detailed information on its Work Plan with Questar rendered it less effective as a monitoring tool to ensure Questar met all deadlines.
  • Questar’s decision to make an unauthorized change to text-to-speech software without formally notifying the department. This change contributed to the online testing disruptions.
  • Questar’s failure to sufficiently staff customer support, resulting in lengthy call wait times and high rates of abandoned calls.
  • a failure to track, document, and provide status updates to districts to let them know when students’ tests would be recovered, leaving districts unaware if their students completed the required tests.
  • inadequate evaluation and monitoring of internal controls implemented by external information technology service providers, such as Questar.

Click here to read the full report.

More stories:
Changes Made To TNReady Tests
State Says TNReady Issues May Be Caused By 'Deliberate Attack' On Vendor
Haslam on TNReady: 'It's been one of my biggest frustrations'