By Sally Absher


Tennessee finalized the contract with Questar for the 2016-17 state assessment last week, and Commissioner Candice McQueen announced “significant changes” to state assessments in response to feedback from educators, parents and students.

One of the biggest changes is that overall testing time has been reduced by nearly a third. For students in grades 3-8, the tests will be a total of 200 – 210 minutes shorter. The typical third grader will have state assessments this year totaling three and one half hours shorter than last year. Which means that last year, the typical third grader spent approximately 10.5 hours taking standardized tests… if they were able to get through the test period before the testing was suspended.

That’s in addition to hours of  test prep, test practice, and  other distractions that are keeping today’s students from developing a love of learning and creating an increasingly dumbed down citizenry. But kudos to the department for reducing the testing time by three and a half hours.

High school students will also see shorter End of Course (EOC) assessments – shortened by 40 to 120 minutes. The total time spent taking EOCs will be approximately 225, or 3 hours and 45 minutes shorter – compared to last year.

Another major change is that the TCAP (known as TNReady), which was divided into two testing windows (Part 1 and Part 2) last year, will be given during a single three-week assessment window towards the end of the school year. The test, which covers English language arts, math, science, and social studies, will also be divided into shorter subparts. Many district and school administrators complained about the difficulty of fitting last years’ longer sections into the regular school day. Details on the test timing, and specific changes to each subject area are available on the Department’s website (

The 2016-2017 social studies test in grades 3-8 will be a field test, and will be administered to every student. Last years’ social studies test was also a field test, but because the TCAP was suspended for 2016, the state did not have enough field test data items to build the social studies test for this year. Field tests are not reportable and do not factor into students grades or educators evaluations, but will provide the department with information to develop an assessment for the 2017-18 assessment, which will be “fully operational.”

There will also be a separate field test for the English and US History writing prompts, given at a different time from the main testing window. Approximately one-third to one-half of students will participate in the field test each year on a rotating basis.

The department claims Tennessee teachers already have significant input in the test development process as they review and approve every TCAP question, including those that will be on the 2016-2017 assessment. And starting this fall, Tennessee teachers will also be engaged in developing and writing questions for future TCAP administrations.

Of course, we were told that the common core standards were written by “educators from your state” as well – which has been proven to be false. It is also odd that the department claims that teachers can review and approve every TCAP question when they are threatened with dismissal if they as so much look at a test question, much less discuss it.