Tennessee Dumps Testing Vendor, Makes This Year's TNReady Exams Optional

Apr 27, 2016

Tennessee students may not have to take the second part of their year-end exams after all. Following multiple delays in receiving test materials, the state is cutting ties with testing vendor Measurement Inc. The company has been blamed for the bulk of glitches and delays in the first year of TNReady.

“Measurement Inc.’s performance is deeply disappointing," Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement. "We will not ask districts to continue waiting on a vendor that has repeatedly failed us.”

McQueen said the state has "exhausted every option in problem solving" to assist in getting the tests delivered.

North Carolina-based Measurement Inc. has pinned the delays on unexpectedly having to print millions of testing packets. The rush-job followed the failure of its computer-based test in February. But Nakia Towns, an assistant commissioner in the Department of Education, says there's no excuse.

“Right now, all of the printed materials are at Measurement Inc. The printer is not the issue," she said at a press briefing Wednesday. "The issue is that Measurement Inc. has failed to pack and ship the materials that they have on site.”

The company admits there have been a handful of missed deadlines, as recently as this week.

But CEO Henry Scherich tells WPLN he was just a couple of days from having all the tests on delivery trucks.

“It’s hard for me to understand why they would pull the plug at this time after we’re this close to having it all done," he said. "But that’s their decision, and so we’re not shipping anything now.”

So now schools are being told not to worry about the second part of their year-end exams. And it looks like districts are eager to opt out. Many are already telling parents that testing is done for the year.

The state is warning that even for schools that follow through with the exams, the education department will only be able to generate limited student performance data.

State education officials are now trying to expedite selection of a new vendor. They're also in touch with the U.S. Department of Education to make sure the state remains in compliance with any federal regulations.

“I share along with many teachers, students and parents a profound frustration with the lack of performance by the state’s education testing vendor and the subsequent challenges that failure has created," Governor Bill Haslam said in a statement. "We remain committed going forward to measuring student performance fairly and ensuring accountability for those results.”

NPR's Lee Hale contributed to this story.