TN Gov. Bill Haslam Announces Plan To Improve TNReady, Including Statewide Listening Tour

Local News

Recent troubles with TNReady school tests prompted some new action from Tennessee’s Governor. State capitol newsroom reporter Chris Bundgaard looks at what’s called a listening tour for everyone involved.

With much publicized problems about TNReady testing last spring, the Governor was asked what took so long.

“It’s not like we have not been working on this. Believe me there is nothing that we think is more important. One of the things we want to do is distinguish from the test itself and then the implementation of the test,” says Gov. Bill Haslam.

Implementing the online test that measures critical K-12 student progress went into troubling territory when countless Tennessee kids could not probably login or submit their results this spring.

It raised issues about testing and the best way to do it. So beginning this week the Governor and a group of educators will be go at least six towns statewide to hear from teachers, administrators, and parents.

“We want to go have that conversation around the state to say, ‘as we get ready for next year’s, to make sure it’s as good a process as possible,” says Gov. Haslam.

Because of the troubles, tests for this past spring won’t count unless they do help the evaluation of teachers or schools.

The state’s teacher of the year who will help lead the listening tour defends the testing.

“I am hoping that people are honest and that we get honest feedback on implementation. We know TNReady is a good test, but we want the implementation right,” says Cicely Woodard.

Simply put, the future of critical school testing in TN is at stake with this listening tour. The Governor’s listening tour begins Friday in Knoxville.


Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a multi-phase plan, highlighted by a statewide listening tour, to improve delivery of the state’s elementary and secondary assessments known as TNReady. The goals of the engagement plan and tour are to:

  • Engage in an open conversation about assessment and ways to improve administration;
  • Gather feedback that can inform a smooth delivery of state assessments this school year and beyond, including feedback on the selection of the state’s next assessment partner to be chosen later this school year; 
  • Discuss how to better provide schools, educators, parents and students with meaningful and timely results from assessments; and
  • Distinguish assessment content from delivery in an effort to focus on the value assessments can provide.

“Tennessee’s unprecedented improvement in education is the result of high academic standards and an assessment that measures knowledge of those standards,” Haslam said. “Without aligned assessments, we don’t know where our students stand and where we need to improve. We finally have a test that is aligned to Tennessee’s strong academic standards, and I don’t want recent assessment delivery issues to cause us to lose sight of why we have these tests in the first place. Delivering the test without disruption is essential and we must get it right. I am confident this listening tour and process will inform the critical work ahead of us.”                

The listening tour will consist of six stops throughout the state and provide an opportunity for educators, school technology and assessment coordinators, and school district administrators to share information about recent challenges related to the online delivery of state assessments. Each meeting will encourage feedback on how the state can continue to improve its assessment; a discussion of steps made to-date to improve test administration in 2018-19; and a conversation on ways to improve test delivery through the oversight and selection of the state’s next assessment partner, which will occur later this school year. Haslam and Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen will attend each leg of the tour.

Haslam has tapped former long-time educator, and former executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, Wayne Miller to facilitate the listening tour meetings and outcomes. 

“As someone who has spent his entire career in public education, I know when difficult issues arise it often takes more listening than talking to resolve them and move forward in partnership and collaboration,” Miller said. “I am excited about the process the governor has put forward and honored to facilitate conversations with educators throughout the state. We are all in this together.” 

To assist with the listening tour, Haslam has convened an educator advisory team to guide the feedback sessions with Miller. Advisory team members will participate in each meeting, gather information and feedback and develop a set of principles and recommendations for consideration by the governor as well as the next administration. The three-member advisory team includes:

  • Cicely Woodard, the 2018 Tennessee Teacher of the Year and a math teacher at Freedom Middle School in Franklin Special School District;
  • Derek Voiles, the 2017 Teacher of the Year and an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Lincoln Heights Middle School in Hamblen County School District; and
  • Dr. Mike Winstead, the current Tennessee Superintendent of the Year and Maryville City Director of Schools.

“Tennessee educators are committed to improving educational outcomes for our students, and assessments are an important and necessary component for us to meet that commitment,” Woodard said. “I am appreciative of the governor’s recognition of the need to continue to get feedback, and I look forward to working with the governor and educators to improve assessment delivery.”

The listening tour will begin Friday, Aug. 24, in Knoxville and be followed by stops planned for Hamilton County, Shelby County, Williamson County, Greene County and Gibson County. Specific locations and times are being finalized.

Following the listening tour, the next phases of the process will include implementing feedback from the listening tour, refining the requirements of the state’s next assessment partner, providing on-the-ground oversight of the fall test administration, and developing opportunities for feedback from educators and stakeholders.

Find more information HERE.

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