“Failure is not an option” is the tag line of the 1995 film Apollo 13. However, it is certainly not the theme of Tennessee’s testing vendors.

In 2016 the original online testing system, Measurement Inc., failed. That’s when the Department of Education awarded Pearson $18.5 million to score the tests when Measurement wasn’t meeting its standards.

In 2017, when the state contracted with Questar for $30 million per year, about 1,700 tests were scored incorrectly. In 2018, the state comptroller’s office says there were login delays, slow servers, and software bugs.

Last fall, the state put out a request for contract proposals for a new vendor to be identified in the spring. Former Education Commissioner Candace McQueen said that “who wins the proposal will have to show the ability and history of seamlessly administering an online test.”


Current Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn announced Tennessee had selected a new vendor to oversee its student assessment test for elementary and secondary students. The state awarded the contract to the London-based testing company Pearson.

I guess for a mere $20 million per year the state is getting a deal.

But, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing has a list of at least 75 testing problems with Pearson going back to 1998, including cancellations, incorrect scoring, and cyber-attacks.

The bottom line: Tennessee has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on testing. Teachers have been forced to squander months of instructional time in preparing for and administering these tests. Students have been cheated out of learning time.

How, exactly, have the citizens of Tennessee benefited from this? Are they getting their money’s worth? If this incessant testing obsession is supposed to make our students smarter, then we should be leading the nation in achievement and growth scores! Continuing to weigh a pig doesn’t fatten it.

So, is it really our schools that are failing?

It is past time our state leaders and lawmakers actually heed the advice of education experts and not the political, non-education “reformers” who are forcefully moving to privatize education.

The state was expected to finalize its contract negotiations with Pearson by this past week.

(Note: Pearson also owns edTPA, the assessments for teachers to get licensed.)

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