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Candice McQueen is introduced in December 2014 as Tennessee’s new education commissioner by Gov. Bill Haslam.

Candice McQueen is introduced in December 2014 as Tennessee’s new education commissioner by Gov. Bill Haslam.

State of Tennessee

Extending uncertainty about testing, Tennessee misses its deadline to name new test maker

Tennessee has missed its own deadline to hire the testing company that will pick up where Measurement Inc. left off this spring.

The state canceled the North Carolina test maker’s contract in April, weeks after the launch of the company’s online testing platform went so badly that the tests were halted entirely. In May, officials awarded an emergency contract to testing conglomerate Pearson to grade some tests that did work — and said they would choose another company to handle the state’s testing program by the end of June.

That deadline passed with no announcement. A spokeswoman for the State Education Department signaled that a decision is likely in July.

“It will not be announced this week, but we are looking ahead to the next several weeks,” Ashley Ball told Chalkbeat on Friday.

The delay is significant because Tennessee is already trying to create new tests with far less lead time than states typically give new test makers. New York, for example, announced a year ago that Questar would begin creating its tests, starting with the ones that students will take in 2017. Tennessee picked Measurement Inc. to create the new TNReady exam 18 months before it would be administered.

The tight timeline also means that students and teachers likely will enter the school year without a sense of what their end-of-year tests will look like. Last year, some students began taking practice tests in October; it’s hard to imagine that happening this year.

The newest timeline suggests that the state could have no choice but to pull back on administering the tests online, an innovation that it touted heavily with last school year’s tests. Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has indicated that the state wants to return eventually to online testing but that it might not happen this year.

An added wrinkle is that Tennessee is in the process of phasing out the Common Core academic standards for English and math for new standards that will reach classrooms in the 2017-18 school year.