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After Series of Hiccups, Tennessee Terminates Contract With Testing Company

Tennessee's department of education terminated its contract with Measurement Inc. Wednesday after a series of technical glitches, according to The Tennesseean.  In addition, the state has suspended testing for grades 3-8 after the company was unable to send the paper test to several schools.  

"Measurement Inc.'s performance is deeply disappointing," Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement. "We've exhausted every option in problem-solving with this vendor to assist them in getting these tests delivered. Districts have exceeded their responsibility and obligation to wait for grade 3-8 materials, and we will not ask districts to continue waiting on a vendor that has repeatedly failed us."

Tennessee has been a leader in its commitment to incorporate standardized test scores into its school accountability system and teacher evaluations. 

Teachers are given bonuses based on test scores, students' grades are based on how well they perform on the test, and the state has taken over several schools in Memphis and Nashville mostly based on the schools' performance on the exam. 

This was Measurement Inc.'s first year administering the state's new TNReady exam. On the first day of the exam, computer screens froze and servers shut down, forcing the state's superintendent to call off the test. She later placed a moratorium on using the test scores to determine how well teachers perform in the classroom. And the state-run Achievement School District said recently that it will hold off a year before taking over any more schools. 

I spoke to Measurement Inc.'s president, Henry Scherich in February, a few weeks after the technical glitches. He said hiccups are bound to happen when placing tests online and characterized the state department's reaction at the time as overreactive.  He seemed especially flustered that McQueen would suspend incorporating test scores in teachers' evaluations. 

"That's a policy decision that has nothing to do with whether or not our online system works well or not," he said. "However, I'm sure there was a big sigh of relief around the state from educators when they learned it wasn't going to be part of their evaluation system."

The state has paid $1.6 million of the $105 million contract, according to the Tennesseean.  

In Memphis, the state has taken over several schools and launched an all-out war with the district over students and the state funding that comes with them. The exam has caused a lot of angst for the district's teachers who are at risk of losing their jobs if their school's test scores dip too low. Dorsey Hopson, the district's superintendent, said this afternoon they won't be continuing their exams. 

A friend who teaches at a charter school there told me this afternoon, "l feel like I'm in someone's education reform horror film." 

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