VOL. 130 | NO. 155 | Tuesday, August 11, 2015
TNReady Promises Big Testing Changes
By Bill Dries
With a new year underway, Shelby County Schools leaders are focused on a change beyond the challenge of wayward buses, late registration and uncooperative air conditioners.
Shelby County Schools and other public school districts across Tennessee have a new, online-only achievement test for math and reading this year that emphasizes critical- thinking skills.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
The online-only TNReady achievement tests debut across the state’s public school systems in February, replacing the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program – or TCAP – tests in English language arts and math for grades 3-11.
Tennessee education officials say the new tests move away from memorization “cramming” or test-taking skills focused on multiple choice answers.
In mathematics, it involves multi-step problem solving, most of which will be done without calculators.
For reading and writing, students will read a text and then give written responses – including reasoning that support their answers – to questions.
“Just knowing that, the way our teachers are going to have to teach, the way our school leaders are going to have to lead is going to be drastically different,” Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson said last week. The comments came on the heels of he and other school leaders touting the school system’s TCAP gains.
“The quicker we can get devices in students’ hands, the quicker they can get acclimated to the technology.”
Shelby County Schools
“With all of the gains we made in the TCAP testing department, the TCAP is out,” Hopson said. “There’s going to be a big shift in the way that instruction occurs in classrooms every single day.”
There also is a technical challenge with test administration. SCS chief academic officer Heidi Ramirez said school system leaders have looked over each school for equipment gaps and to address “enough bandwidth where we are conducting assessments.”
A bandwidth test is scheduled for October.
Hopson said the school system is about to make a large technology buy, which is included in its budget.
“We want the technology in students’ hands sooner rather than later,” he said. “As students make the shift we want them to be familiar with how to operate the technology. … The quicker we can get devices in students’ hands, the quicker they can get acclimated to the technology.”
Meanwhile, Shelby County Schools moves into the second year of a literacy push. The system begins the year with new textbooks and new literacy teaching and reading positions in all of the school system’s “priority” schools – those in the bottom five percent of schools statewide in terms of student achievement.