Student Assessment in Tennessee

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Changes to assessment in Tennessee were made in response to feedback from educators, parents, and students—including eliminating Part I in all subjects, restructuring the test to better fit within the school day and year, and reducing overall testing time. The changes come as the department finalizes its contract with Questar, the primary vendor for the 2016-17 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). 

Overall, testing time has been reduced by nearly a third. The exact reductions vary by grade. In grades 3-8, students will have tests that are a total of 200-210 minutes shorter. As an example, for a typical third grader, the 2016-17 TCAP assessments will be shorter by three and a half hours compared to last year. In high school, most individual End of Course assessments have been shortened by 40-120 minutes. For a typical eleventh grader, this would mean the 2016-17 TCAP End of Course assessments will be shorter in total by 225 minutes—or three hours and 45 minutes—compared to last year.

TCAP has been the state’s testing program since 1988, and it includes TNReady state assessments in math, English language arts, social studies, and science. As the state has transitioned to higher academic standards over the past several years, and will continue to do so, those tests have become better aligned to what educators are teaching. The assessments now include more rigorous questions that measure students’ writing, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. 

Moving forward, Tennessee will phase in online testing over multiple years to ensure state, district, and vendor technology readiness. For the 2016-17 school year, the state assessment for grades 3–8 will be administered via paper and pencil. However, the department will work closely with Questar to provide an online option for high school End of Course exams if both schools and the testing platform demonstrate early proof of successful online administration. Even if schools demonstrate readiness for online administration, districts will still have the option to choose paper and pencil assessments for their high school students.

In the coming weeks, we will share assessment blueprints, which outline the number of questions devoted to various groups of standards. Additional resources, including sample test questions and resources that will help educators, parents, and students to become more familiar with the assessment, will be available this fall.