City BOE discusses future projects, TNReady

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A rocky road for TNReady testing has been a hot topic for school systems across the state.

Following up some missteps recognized during the past test cycle, Elizabethton City Schools is looking to draft a letter for the system’s Board of Education that would be sent to the State Legislature stating their displeasure on the testing measure.

During Tuesday’s BOE meeting, Director of Schools Dr. Corey Gardenhour brought the item before the board, stating that some other school boards have come out in opposition about the “testing rollercoaster we’ve been on,” he said, adding there’s been “a lot of anticipation and not a lot of follow through.”

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Tennessee Department of Education released a statement Wednesday morning about TNReady, stating they’ve been “diligently working to strengthen TNReady based on what we have learned.”

The statement also added a new step the department is taking with it’s testing vendor, Questar.

“We have informed Questar that the department is reducing the invoice for our spring online assessment administration by $2.5 million to account for the substandard performance issues we experienced under the current contract and the costs incurred by the state in addressing the issues this spring,” the Department said in an emailed statement issued to the Elizabethton Star.

Actions from the state that took place last week include the development of a new Request For Proposals (RFP) to find a new vendor to administer the test for the 2019-20 school year and beyond, adjusting the transition to online testing and amending the contract with Questar to “improve” the assessment for 18-19.

TNReady received flack during the past testing cycle after an attack was reported on Questar’s data system.

“It appears, thankfully, that there was not an outside actor who attacked Questar’s data system. No student data was breached,” the statement read. “ It is now clear that the event that Questar initially thought presented like a denial of service attack on Tuesday, April 17, was not created by an external actor with malicious intent, but, rather, can be traced in large part to the caching issues connected to how text-to-speech was configured by Questar.”

Questar CEO Brad Baumgartner released a statement discussing the site’s ongoing internal  investigation.

“Questar’s internal and external investigations indicate that the source of the anomalous data pattern is believed to be the result of a configuration with the cache server. We have applied a configuration change and believe to have resolved the issue. We will continue to work with our internal technology team and external partners to validate this,” he said.

In other business, the board learned that the creation of new soccer fields, located near Rogosin Drive, could be cheaper than expected due to a report issued to the system.

“We did not have a substantial issue there that we thought we might,” Gardenhour said. “That will be great for us moving forward.” The director added the cost for the project will be minimal compared to what it could have been if issues were discovered.

The BOE also voted to approve the system to enter into a contract with Thomas Weems Architect to come up with designs for renovations at Elizabethton High School to assist with the growth of the Bartleby Program. School officials and city leaders are expected to go through a walkthrough of the school later in the month.