By Jared Felkins

Staff Reports

NASHVILLE –Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday a multi-phase plan, highlighted by a statewide listening tour, to improve delivery of the state’s elementary and secondary assessments known as TNReady.

Haslam said the goals of the engagement plan and tour are to:

• engage in an open conversation about assessment and ways to improve administration.

• gather feedback that can inform a smooth delivery of state assessments this school year and beyond, including feedback on the selection of the state’s next assessment partner to be chosen later this school year.

• discuss how to better provide schools, educators, parents and students with meaningful and timely results from assessments.

• distinguish assessment content from delivery in an effort to focus on the value assessments can provide.

“Tennessee’s unprecedented improvement in education is the result of high academic standards and an assessment that measures knowledge of those standards,” Haslam said. “Without aligned assessments, we don’t know where our students stand and where we need to improve. We finally have a test that is aligned to Tennessee’s strong academic standards, and I don’t want recent assessment delivery issues to cause us to lose sight of why we have these tests in the first place. Delivering the test without disruption is essential and we must get it right. I am confident this listening tour and process will inform the critical work ahead of us.”

The listening tour will consist of six stops throughout the state and provide an opportunity for educators, school technology and assessment coordinators and school district administrators to share information about recent challenges related to the online delivery of state assessments.

Each meeting will encourage feedback on how the state can continue to improve its assessment; a discussion of steps made to-date to improve test administration in 2018-19; and a conversation on ways to improve test delivery through the oversight and selection of the state’s next assessment partner, which will happen later in the school year. Haslam and Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen will attend each leg of the tour.

Haslam has tapped former longtime educator and former executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents Wayne Miller to facilitate the listening tour meetings and outcomes.

“As someone who has spent his entire career in public education, I know when difficult issues arise it often takes more listening than talking to resolve them and move forward in partnership and collaboration,” Miller said. “I am excited about the process the governor has put forward and honored to facilitate conversations with educators throughout the state. We are all in this together.”

To assist with the listening tour, Haslam convened an educator advisory team to guide the feedback sessions with Miller. Advisory team members will participate in each meeting, gather information and feedback and develop a set of principles and recommendations for consideration by the governor as well as the next administration. The three-member advisory team includes:

• Cicely Woodard, 2018 Tennessee Teacher of the Year and a math teacher at Freedom Middle School in Franklin Special School District.

• Derek Voiles, 2017 Teacher of the Year and an English as a Second Language teacher at Lincoln Heights Middle School in Hamblen County School District.

• Mike Winstead, current Tennessee Superintendent of the Year and Maryville director of schools.

“Tennessee educators are committed to improving educational outcomes for our students, and assessments are an important and necessary component for us to meet that commitment,” Woodard said. “I am appreciative of the governor’s recognition of the need to continue to get feedback, and I look forward to working with the governor and educators to improve assessment delivery.”

The listening tour will begin Friday in Knoxville and be followed by stops planned for Hamilton County, Shelby County, Williamson County, Greene County and Gibson County. Specific locations and times weren’t finalized.

Following the listening tour, the next phases of the process will include implementation of feedback from the listening tour, refining the requirements of the state’s next assessment partner, provide on-the-ground oversight of the fall test administration and development of opportunities for feedback from educators and stakeholders.