Latest digital testing stumbles lead Tennessee to consider slower rollout
- After a third year of stumbles, Tennessee is planning to slow the rollout of its digital TNReady assessment, Chalkbeat reports.
- State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has proposed three options for the 2018-19 school year, which include returning to paper tests across all grades for the year, doing computer testing in high school and paper testing in grades 3-8, or computer testing in grades 6-12 with paper testing in grades 3-5.
- While the state previously only expected all high school students to take the digital version of the test this year, Chalkbeat reports that 40% of districts pushed for digital exams to roll out in earlier grades, as well.
While Tennessee isn't alone among states that have experienced roadblocks in their digital testing rollouts, the state's problems have been well-documented. This year's issues included a cyberattack under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the State Office of Homeland Security, a handful of technical issues, and the severing of a fiber optic line by a dump truck in Knoxville.
Ultimately, these issues highlight the pain points inherent in the broader shift to a digital assessment format. There are a lot of moving parts that administrators must ensure lawmakers consider before making that move. Perhaps the biggest: Not every school or district can jump right in. Some less affluent schools lack the necessary broadband infrastructure to support the massive number of students trying to take an exam at one time — and in more remote rural areas, services might also be limited or not available at all because service providers haven't reached them yet.
Lawmakers and state education agencies must consider these factors before setting deadlines, providing appropriate resources and funding to make any necessary upgrades so administrators can meet those goals. In some cases, schools and districts may be able to forge partnerships with service providers to make the adequate upgrades. And, of course, there's federal funding on that front available through programs like the Federal Communication Commission's E-Rate to close the gap.
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