Tennessee has tapped 37 educators to serve as advisers to the state Department of Education and its testing companies after widespread problems this spring with the standardized TNReady assessment.
Thirty-one teachers and six testing coordinators were named Tuesday as the state’s first TNReady Ambassadors. They are to provide ongoing input and feedback to the state and its two TNReady vendors, Questar and Educational Testing Service, during the upcoming school year.
The group “will play a critical role in our work to improve the testing experience for students and teachers,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement.
Specifically, they’ll be tasked with helping to plan and present test-related professional development across the state; evaluate instructions, manuals and other testing materials for usability and clarity; and review test questions, content, and forms. For their part-time work, the ambassadors will receive additional compensation of up to $15,000 each for teachers and up to $10,000 each for test coordinators, depending on the number of hours they work.
The state also has hired a veteran educator from Cookeville to oversee the test’s administration as Tennessee’s new executive director of assessment logistics. Denette Kolbe has coordinated testing since 2011 for Putnam County Schools, where she also has worked as a teacher, principal, supervisor, and assistant director. Part of her job will be to work with the ambassadors.
McQueen announced all of the appointments as the state seeks to troubleshoot TNReady and re-establish the credibility of Tennessee’s beleaguered testing program amid backlash from educators, parents, and elected officials. The state previously announced plans to seek proposals from other companies to take over the test’s administration beginning in the 2019-20 school year.
Of the more than 900 educators who applied, below are the 37 who were chosen: (An asterisk denotes testing coordinator.)
- Donny Anderson, Blount County Schools*
- John Luke Bell, Knox County Schools
- Aaron Bible, Greeneville City Schools
- Brandi Blackley, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Terri Bradshaw, Blount County Schools
- Jessica Brown, Williamson County Schools
- Tina Childers, Hamilton County Department of Education
- Lisa Choate, Cannon County Schools
- Laura Davis, Knox County Schools
- Brian Davis, Shelby County Schools
- Kevin Deck, Williamson County Schools*
- Kristi Dragan, Wilson County Schools
- Laurie Driver, Knox County Schools*
- Melinda Fleischer, Rutherford County Schools
- Rashaunda Foster, Shelby County Schools
- Erin Glenn, Hamilton County Department of Education
- Mario Grant, Shelby County Schools
- Tiffani Harris, Jackson-Madison County School System
- Sarah Haynes, Bradley County Schools
- Curtis Herring, Arlington Community Schools
- Adrema Higgins, Lebanon Special Schools
- Eric Hoffman, Rutherford County Schools
- Tiffany Hogan, Johnson City Schools
- Michael Hubbard, Kingsport City Schools*
- Traci Jones, Achievement School District
- Joseph Jones, Cheatham County Schools
- Carol Keasley, Rutherford County Schools
- Jennifer Maag, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Tracy McAbee, Polk County Schools
- Adam Moss, Cleveland City Schools
- Jamie Opperman, Rhea County Schools
- Stephanie Page, Maury County Schools
- Brant Riedel, Shelby County Schools*
- Marion Samuel, Tipton County Schools*
- James Sullivan, Rutherford County Schools
- Liza Vaughn, Williamson County Schools
- Sarah White, Williamson County Schools
Under Questar, most of this year’s problems were due to technical snafus during the transition to computerized exams for mostly older students. However, the state also received widespread complaints about confusing directions and last-minute changes to paper testing materials for younger students.
The headaches have led to a laundry list of changes for TNReady, including slowing the state’s timeline for transitioning to computerized tests.
Tennessee also has hired Educational Testing Service to help Questar, its own subsidiary, in the coming year — and plans to hire another TNReady administrator within the Department of Education to focus solely on customer service. A state investigation revealed that Questar was ill-equipped to respond to the volume of calls received during the three-week testing window that began in April.
As a result of all of the glitches and changes, Tennessee has docked Questar about $2.5 million out of its $30 million contract this year.