State Threatens District's Funds Over TNReady

Posted at 11:01 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 00:02:23-04

The TNReady rollercoaster has been a wild ride for kids like 6th grader Diana Richards.

"I had two pre-tests in science and one pre-test in math and all these eight review sheets in social studies and I'm going to take a test tomorrow in vocab so there's a lot going on," Diana said, trying to remember it all.

So when State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced the department fired testing vendor Measurement Inc. for not getting schools the second round of booklets on time last week, it was a sigh of relief for many.

"The questions were worded kind of weird and there were a couple of mistakes," said Diana's 8th grade brother Cameron about his math test.

Last week Williamson County Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney  suspended all testing. He says the district didn't have all the materials yet.

"Given that testing was supposed to start the next morning I could not, in good conscience, to try to move forward," he said.

But that didn't last long. At a specially called board meeting Monday he explained a change to his decision.

"I think we fought a good fight," Looney said, "but at the end of the day the department (of education) has the ability to enforce this."

The state may have canceled all accountability scores for the tests, but only agreed to completely stop testing for 3rd through 8th grade. High schoolers are still on the hook.

Williamson County school board members did not take kindly to the news.

"It's not palatable to put our kids through a test that means nothing," said board member Bobby Hullett.

"It feels very much like strong-arming. It feels very much like federal, if not state, control and they all say they want to give us local control. Well I don't see it," said board member Dr. Beth Burgos.

Looney said Education Commissioner McQueen threatened to pull up to $3 million from the district if Williamson County did not administer the tests. He said that was money he refused to throw away.

"I told her that, one, I was disappointed and that I was professionally protesting but certainly would comply," he reported to board members Monday.

"It's been so crazy a lot of teachers are kind of scrambling," noted Diana about the recent uncertainty of the testing schedule.

Now hundreds of high school classrooms will re-prepare. She and her brother feel for them.

"Having to go back and doing it all over against because we've kind of forgotten about it, its going to be difficult," Cameron said.

Because despite what they thought, testing season isn't over yet.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to the Dept. of Education for comment, but a spokesperson would only say that Commissioner McQueen and Dr. Looney were in close contact about the issue.