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Ready or Not: TNReady test crashes during first phase

One of the biggest fears for educators across the state of Tennessee came true last week when the new electronic state achievement test, TNReady, crashed on Monday, Feb. 8.
The crash occurred in Washington County between 8:30-9 a.m., according to Director of Schools Ron Dykes, and numerous students were kicked off before they were able to finish.
According to the Tennessee Department of Education, 48,000 students statewide started the test but could not complete it because of network failures.
The crash wasn’t much of a surprise for Dykes, who served as the Director of Technology for Washington County for almost 16 years before taking his current role.
“Me personally, I was not surprised, I did not think that when they initially announced it that electronic testing would be effective this school year,” Dykes said.
Dykes also noted that the state performed three stress tests with all of the school systems in the state logging on at the same time and none of those worked.
“Every single time the system bogged down. It did not pass the stress test,” Dykes said.
The TNReady test evaluates math and English skills for grades 3-11. It replaces the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, known as TCAP, and supporters say it does a better job of assessing critical-thinking skills.
With the failure, the state has informed the school districts that it will revert to the paper-and-pencil method for the remainder of the testing. It has also extended the testing window for Phase I of testing to the second week in March.
Department of Education said through spokeswoman Ashley Ball that no matter how the test is given, they’re confident in what it will find.
“TNReady, regardless of it is given online or on paper, is designed to assess true student understanding and problem-solving abilities, not just basic memorization skills,” Ball said in a statement. “Based on MIST’s performance today, we believe the transition to a paper and pencil will allow all students to show what they know.”
The switch back to paper for students is more in line with what they are use to, according to Dykes.
“It will seem pretty normal to students. It will be just like taking the normal TCAP,” Dykes said. “I’d say you have a mixed bag out there. I’m sure you have some students and educators that are very happy that they are going to do it paper and pencil and some will lament, and rightfully so, that they have spent a lot of hours preparing for online testing, and I would be one of those. I hate that we have lost so much instructional time, just preparing for the mechanics.”
Dykes estimated that the students and teachers might have lost a day a month of instructional time, strictly preparing themselves to take the online test.
Washington County school officials have received word that they should expect their shipment of the tests during the week of Feb. 22, a decision will be made soon as to when the students will start their paper and pencil testing.