By Steve Hunley

Once again the State of Tennessee has been embarrassed by the failure of TNReady. Taxpayers spend $30 million annually to fund TNReady, which is supposed to help gauge the progress of students. It seems every year there is a problem with the testing platform.

Amber Rountree, South Knoxville’s representative on the board of education, now looks like a genius. Rountree has been sharply critical of the state’s roll out of TNReady and repeatedly has pointed out what should be obvious to everyone: flawed test results tell us nothing. Candace McQueen, Governor Haslam’s Commissioner of Education, just spent two hours before a joint House committee being grilled by angry legislators. McQueen declared she was “devastated” by the most recent test failure. One legislator, a Democrat, called for McQueen to resign. State officials are claiming this year’s test results were flawed by a “deliberate attack” on the cyber system. Students found themselves unable to sign into computer accounts to take the test.

Legislators are, not surprisingly, growing weary of the numerous excuses by state officials where the testing has gone off the tracks. Like Amber Rountree, several legislators are offering amendments to hold students, teachers and school district harmless. That is only fair as corrupted data should not and cannot be utilized. That same corrupted data negates the very benefit testing supposedly provides the State of Tennessee and denies school districts the opportunity to properly assess the progress of students and teachers.

Once again, state officials have reached an agreement that the only way the test results will count is if it benefits teachers and students. Even this is not an effective or legitimate means of adequately measuring the progress of those being tested. Some legislators are beginning to question whether online testing is effective. Clearly, it is time for the State of Tennessee – – – the governor, the commissioner of education and legislators to consider the possibility of doing away with online testing and resorting to paper and pencil once again. Online testing to measure the progress of students and teachers in Tennessee has become nothing less than an embarrassment in our state.

Representative Ryan Williams was precisely correct when he said the legislature needed to take action to “do something to protect teachers and our students and our institutions from further erosion of the trust as it relates to these tests.”

Unfortunately, I think we’ve already passed that point. It doesn’t appear we’re any closer than we ever were for TNReady to be ready.