Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


Problems mount when ACT scores are good and TNReady is bad

There is growing concern about the state tests.

One of Tennessee’s best performing districts, Williamson County, had a 2016 average ACT score of 23.8, out-pacing the national average by three points (or 15 percent higher), exceeding the threshold for college readiness. Scores from the new TNReady end-of-course tests, however, show only 44 percent of Williamson high school students are at grade level in math.

Maryville has a 23.2 ACT average, but the state test shows only 33 percent are at grade level. So who should we believe - the leading college admissions test or the new TNReady?

Problems with very low EOC scores were recorded across Tennessee. As the new TNReady tests are administered in all schools this spring, there is growing concern our students and teachers are being set up to fail. When a well-respected national test says “Great job!” but the state test shows failure, there is a problem with TNReady.

“We want the students we teach to have opportunities to be successful in life. One goal of the shift to TNReady was to change the way we test in order to better assess college and career readiness skills, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be what is actually happening,” said TEA President Barbara Gray.

Since the standard for student achievement is a good score on the ACT, it stands to reason that districts who have high ACT scores would also do well on the new TNReady end-of-course tests, but results from the 2015-16 school year indicate otherwise.

When we look at two of our state’s highest achievers on ACT, Williamson County and Maryville, we see surprising TNReady results. These districts are showing achievement well above the national average in ACT, yet also showing that between 50-67 percent of their students aren’t on grade level.

Clearly, students in these two districts are demonstrating a high level of college and career readiness based on the state’s definition. The ACT is saying students are well-prepared and ready, yet the state is saying that a majority of those same students aren’t testing on grade level.

Set Up to Fail?

Some public education advocates are suggesting that a piece of the broader school privatization agenda is setting teachers and schools up to fail. That theory gains credibility when scores from the same group of students show a wide disparity between ACT numbers and TNReady results.

“If privatizers can say schools are failing, they can justify failed policies like rapid charter expansion and even vouchers,” Gray said. “Teachers may see their growth scores drop and their overall ratings suffer. It is important for parents, educators and elected officials to consider that this is a part of a bigger plan to disrupt and dismantle our public schools.”

Transparency is critical

Right now, all we have are these inconsistent results – top school systems in student achievement getting low marks on TNReady. But, thanks to TEA’s aggressive push for testing transparency, we’ll soon be able to see the questions on these tests. This transparency will give educators and elected officials greater understanding where the issues lie.

“Our teachers, parents, and students deserve fair, transparent testing that accurately reflects student work,” Gray said. “Early results from TNReady indicate we might have a serious problem.”

Be sure to thank your legislators for passing testing transparency, and ask them to be sure we get the questions and answers to TNReady, as intended.

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