- Associated Press - Friday, July 15, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Education officials say changes in standardized testing in Tennessee are expected to reduce testing time for students and teachers by about 30 percent.

The state has cut the first part of spring standardized testing to create only one assessment window at the end of the school year, The Tennessean (https://tnne.ws/2a3kAh5) reported.

The changes stem from the Tennessee Department of Education’s two-year, $60 million contract with Minnesota-based Questar Assessment, which was finalized Thursday.

The changes mean that in grades 3-8, students will spend about three-and-a-half hours less time on state-mandated standardized testing each year. High school students will also see a cut in year-end tests with a typical 11th-grader seeing about the same reduction in testing time.

“This keeps flexibility for schools, but also maximizes instructional time,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Thursday. “And it will have a positive impact for school climate.”

McQueen praised Questar for helping eliminate the first part of spring testing.

“It is a blessing that we found a partner that wants what we wanted, but also was able to match the feedback we were getting throughout the state,” McQueen said.

McQueen also answered questions posed by lawmakers, who worried about Questar’s ability to meet the requirements of a new law saying testing materials will be released to parents and educators. McQueen expressed confidence in the vendor.

“We will be able to deliver on as many test items as we are allowed,” she said.

The state also has taken a slow approach to online assessments after issues in the 2015-16 school year with testing.

For districts statewide in the 2016-17 school year, that means students in grades 3-8 will take tests on paper and pencil. And the department will work with Questar to provide an online option for year-end high school exams if both the schools and the testing platform demonstrate early proof of successful online administration.

Tennessee had been searching for a new test vendor since April, when the education department canceled the contract of testing company Measurement Inc. The vendor had numerous issues in fulfilling its contract with the state, including missteps that led to the cancellation of online tests in the 2015-16 school year.

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Information from: The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com


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