Education Issues


Since 2015, TEA has advocated eliminating high-stakes decisions based on year-end standardized test scores.  Research shows there are better, more inclusive means of improving teaching practice and student outcomes than penalties.  Assessments should be used to guide work with students and improve teaching, not as a punitive measure against educators, students and schools.

State testing failures for the past three years show TEA is right.  In each year, testing failures prompted the General Assembly – with TEA organizing – to suspend test score penalties in state law.  Yet without testing penalties, or a functioning and valid state testing system, demonstrable progress has happened in the two most important student outcomes: in time graduation and college-career readiness.

Tennessee’s graduation rate is the highest on record and has improved each year during state testing failures. ACT scores have also improved. Students achieved a 20.1 overall ACT composite score in 2017, up from 19.9 in 2016 and 19.8 in 2015, moving toward the goal of 21—the ACT benchmark of college readiness. Again, this progress happened during state testing failures.

After years of failure, confidence and trust in the state testing system is at an all-time low. There are calls to suspend testing completely and allow a reset, recognizing an entire generation of students have known nothing but glitches and disappointment.

It is clear the administration and department are unwilling to stop testing, and there is little opportunity for a special session to change law to halt the system. As a result, testing will happen this year.

In response, TEA will organize parents and teachers to:

  • Demand all state gubernatorial and legislative candidates:
    • Commit to suspending testing penalties;
    • Change and eliminate testing penalties and ratings;
    • Rethink summative year-end tests, and instead consider a pre-test post-test model and creative use of benchmark testing;
    • Ensure testing transparency so parents and teachers may rate test makers;
    • Support the involvement of teachers in assessment creation and use.
  • Organize every local school board to:
    • Pass resolutions of “no confidence” in the state testing system;
    • Call on the state to suspend data use until the system can prove years of consistent functioning with full transparency;
    • Reiterate support of strong standards and the effort for improved student outcomes.
    • Encourage Tennesseans to vote for candidates who will make comprehensive change to the state testing system, including eliminating high stakes decisions using test scores.t outcomes.