TNReady: We Will Be Ready

This fall, this story ran in the Opinions section of the Knoxville News Sentinel and it provided such great insight into TNReady that we wanted to share it on our blog. The author, Danielle Rutig, is a teaching assistant principal at Norwood Middle School  in Anderson County Schools. She is on Twitter as @DanielleRutig.

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Photo courtesy of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education

By Danielle Rutig

Every day I see teachers at my school working hard to prepare students to be ready for the next grade and eventually ready for life after graduation. I can say with confidence that Tennessee teachers will do what it takes to be ready for TNReady, a new statewide assessment.

TNReady is the assessment that is replacing the old TCAP test for English and math in grades 3-12. At my school teachers have spent the majority of their professional development and hours of their personal time learning what this new assessment expects and how they can revamp their methods to better prepare their students to be better problem-solvers, not necessarily better test-takers.

In a recent Tennessee Education Report article, “Testing Time,” Andy Spears, who is not an educator, rippled the waters with claims that the TNReady test will be more time consuming than proposed by the state Department of Education. Claims of teaching time exclusively focused on a test and of help-wanted ads for scorers on Craigslist heightened tensions in an uncertain time of transition.

Having been a part of the education field for 11 years, nine of those in a Tennessee classroom, I am not exempt from fears of change. Change is hard and uncertain, but the promise of better futures for my students and own children are enough to allay my fears and help set the standard for the work ahead.

It is hard to fathom, but most of the students whom I work with and have worked with will take on jobs that are not yet created because of the speed of progress around us. Our world is changing at lightning pace, so why should education remain stagnant amid the change?

TNReady is a test that will give educators, parents and the state a better a picture of where we are and where we need to go as a result. Instead of only filling in bubbles for traditional answer choices, sometimes students will write responses to open-ended questions and provide evidence to support their thinking. Students will also be eligible to receive partial credit in mathematics, something that wasn’t possible if students did not pick the correct response on a TCAP-style test.

To those critics who still are wary of any testing, I ask you to reflect on your own personal and professional lives. Testing is an ingrained part of our society. We take tests to determine our strengths when joining a new organization, we test our military to ensure that they are combat ready, and we test our officers and civic servants to ensure that they are well versed in how to protect the constituents they serve. Testing gives us insight into what we know, and where we still need to improve.

With the extension of the Tennessee Promise initiative for a free K-14 education system, we now need to ensure that the students leaving our schools are college and career ready. TNReady will give teachers and parents better feedback about how to keep students growing academically. This information will help schools and school systems home in on areas of strength and refinement and then identify ways to support our students.

The Tennessee Department of Education has been particularly transparent throughout this change. From an early release of sample test items and inviting teachers to share their opinions through a standards review and test-item sampler, educator voices have been heard. In the short time we have had in this school year, the voices of educators have been focused on how to make the necessary adjustments to increase the rigor of our current curriculum and prepare our students for the TNReady assessment.

Tennessee educators are not taking this lightly. We are ready for the challenge because we are aware of what this challenge will bring for our students, and I can promise that ready or not now, we all will be ready when it matters. Ready for a better future for every child that promises to make them ready to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be.

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