Leaders of Tennessee’s Largest and Most Diverse Districts Done With TNReady

Outgoing Governor Bill Haslam and his Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen received a letter submitted by leaders of the two largest and most diverse school districts in the state of Tennessee requesting to be relieved from the state’s only standardized assessment. Metro Schools director Dr. Shawn Joseph and Shelby County superintendent Dorsey Hopson want nothing more to do with TNReady attributing their declaration of “no confidence” to the history of deployment missteps and thousands of dollars wasted on purchased and unused technology. In a separate move, the Knox County School Board, the state’s third-largest district, voted this week to draft a letter of no confidence in the assessment. 

The uniting of the leaders of the two largest districts who both happen to be Black men projects an undeniably powerful visual. Not powerful, however, is this union against accountability for districts with the largest percentages of children of color, low-income, special education, and English learners.

The Clapback (the professional kind)

A group of education leaders and organizations locked arms in solidarity releasing a collective “hold up, wait a minute!” Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, a group of civil rights and education advocacy organizations led by newly elected Nashville school board member Gini Pupo-Walker, released a statement in disagreement with the school leaders’ call to pause the state assessment. In Memphis, Campaign for School Equity’s Mendell Grinter released his own statement acknowledging TNReady’s issues though noting “assessments are critical in understanding how students are performing in key academic areas.”

Local blogger TC Weber offers a special clapback complete with suspicions about the letter’s timing and its ghostwriter. Check out his post Guess Who’s Back? Shady’s Back, Tell A Friend. Great title.

What’s This Really About?

“We respectfully ask the State to hit the pause button to allow the next Governor and Commissioner to convene a statewide working group of educators to sort out the myriad challenges in a statewide collaborative conversation.”  – letter to Governor and Commissioner

The attempt to capitalize on this moment in Tennessee’s electoral timeline is a politically loaded strategy that has little do with students. The recommendation to wait for the new governor to convene a working group of educators is one helluva stall tactic! TNReady definitely has problems but those issues do not render student outcomes void as noted by an independent party retained to analyze the testing bruhaha. With that said, the vendors responsible for test implementation failed us and must be relieved of their contractual obligations immediately. In the meantime, TNReady gives us an idea of how or if students are learning.

This effort to wait out the current gubernatorial administration will be devastating to little lives because, for them, there is no disposable time. This test matters for so many reasons.

“In seeking to find a metaphor for the unequal contest that takes place in public schools, advocates for equal education sometimes use the image of a tainted sports event. We have seen, for instance, the familiar image of the playing field that isn’t level. Unlike a tainted sports event, however, a childhood cannot be played again.” – Jonathan Kozol

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