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Kingsport BOE says state test results won't be used for student grades

Rick Wagner • May 2, 2018 at 9:00 PM

KINGSPORT — A local school board has voted not to use results from Tennessee’s problem-plagued spring standardized tests as a part of grades unless it would benefit students. However, one member voted no because he said the whole test, results and process are suspect, possibly corrupt and should not be used period.

The Kingsport Board of Education Tuesday night voted 3-1 with one absent to approve a recommendation from Michael Hubbard, director of performance excellence for Kingsport City Schools, not to use the raw spring test standardized results in student grades unless a parent requested and the test score would improve a student’s grade. The tests in question are EOCs (end of course) tests for grades 9-12 and TNReady exams for grades 3-8, given by testing vendor Questar.

The lone no vote was from Todd Golden, who said he opposes going back and boosting any grades with the results, while member Eric Hyche said: “I would hate to take that away from them (students) if they did prepare for it.” Golden said he doesn’t want to hinder student scores, either, but that he fears some results might be compromised, although Hyche said the state and the vendor have said no results were read, altered or corrupted.

WOULD TEST RESULTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

As for parents requesting consideration of scores in a student’s grade, Hubbard said that was done last year, only three were requested and he didn’t remember the outcomes. Hubbard said the results could be checked “fairly quickly.” He said the system reached out to parents to let them know of the option last year, although Golden said he feared many parents wouldn’t understand the process, meaning some students who might benefit from the scores might not get the chance.

Voting for the original recommendation, after a motion to amend it by Golden failed for lack of a second, were President Susan Lodal, Vice President Susan Reed-Wright and Hyche, who emphasized that students on the border between two letter grades should be given consideration.

WHAT HAVE BEEN TESTING ISSUES?

Questar, the testing vendor, last month reported an apparent hacking or cyber attack on its online system, which was followed by other problems and issues that caused delays in taking and submitting tests in Kingsport and across the state. All told, Hubbard said, six separate problems affected KCS, the latest being an issue with the read-aloud function of one test that has been abandoned, meaning a person must read sections of text aloud instead of it being automated.

In addition, Robinson Middle had a platform issue that delayed testing for six days, and a fiberoptic cable in the South was cut by a truck, meaning some tests couldn’t be started or submitted in a timely manner. This marks the fourth consecutive year that problems plagued the online testing, which Kingsport did in grades 6-12. However, Hubbard said, even pencil-and-paper testing in grades 3-5 had issues because some questions had to be skipped.

“It’s been a mess,” BOE President Lodal said, although Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said issues have been with the testing vendor, not with Kingsport and other systems across the Volunteer State. Lodal said online testing issues have occurred in other states and in testing administered by vendors other than Questar.

WHAT DID LAWMAKERS DO?

The General Assembly agreed, voting at the end of its session to basically hold students, teachers, schools and school systems harmless for the test results, which is what the board voted to do for students.

“It (the bill) gives us the ability to say this doesn’t count,” Moorhouse said. “The law, it has not yet been signed.”

If Gov. Bill Haslam signs the legislation, it will hold students, teachers, schools, and school systems harmless. The Senate version says it will hold everyone harmless, while the House version said the value-added scores simply won’t count. Moorhouse said discussions are still ongoing on the interpretations of the action.

The test results are supposed to count toward student grades and teacher evaluations, but haven’t in the past at least in part because results were not available in time. Hubbard said that could happen this year, too.

 

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