Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen on Tuesday announced the 31 teachers and six testing coordinators who will serve as the inaugural group of TNReady Ambassadors.
The group will serve as “thought partners” and advisers for the department and its assessment vendors, providing on-the-ground perspective and feedback on the state assessment program for the 2018-19 school year.
The TNReady Ambassadors program was established in an effort to continuously improve the state’s assessment program and tap into the expertise of those in the field. As TNReady Ambassadors, this group will assist with planning and presenting professional development across the state; evaluate test day materials for usability and clarity; and review test questions, content, and forms, among other duties to improve the assessment program.
“We must ensure that our state assessments are delivered seamlessly and that we are providing meaningful and actionable information to teachers, parents, and students to help improve student achievement,” Commissioner McQueen said. “The TNReady Ambassadors will play a critical role in our work to improve the testing experience for students and teachers, and they will help us ensure that the time and resources we invest in state assessments ultimately provide information that can help all of us better support students.”
Around 20 of the 37 ambassadors come from larger school districts, including Blount, Knox, Rutherford, Shelby, Williamson and Wilson County schools.
No Tullahoma educators or testing coordinators applied for the program, according to local school officials.
Director of Tullahoma City Schools Dan Lawson said information about applying for the program was passed along to all the faculty members, but no one got in touch about actually moving forward with the application.
Neither Lawson, Director of Personnel Greg Carter nor Director of Curriculum Susan Fanning knew of any Tullahoma City Schools employee who had hoped to apply for the ambassadorship.
While reasons for the lack of Tullahoma participation are speculative, Lawson theorized that the ambassadorship might be a strain on educators’ time and resources.
“The vast majority of teachers have a teaching obligation that consumes much time, family and community obligations,” Lawson said, “and it is tough to add time for an added responsibility.”
Though no TCS employee applied for the inaugural program, that doesn’t mean it’s an impossibility for the future, he said; in fact, it would be encouraged.
“TCS has always encouraged our faculty and staff to be involved in the feedback loop associated with improving education in our state,” Lawson said. “Certainly, in my administration, we have facilitated release time to accomplish participation, and I should expect that philosophy to continue in the future.”
Applications were accepted over the summer and more than 900 educators across the state applied for one of the 37 available spots. Below is the list of testing coordinators and classroom teachers chosen as TNReady Ambassadors (asterisk denotes testing coordinator):
- Donny Anderson, Blount County Schools*
- John Luke Bell, Knox County Schools
- Aaron Bible, Greeneville City Schools
- Brandi Blackley, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Terri Bradshaw, Blount County Schools
- Jessica Brown, Williamson County Schools
- Tina Childers, Hamilton County Department of Education
- Lisa Choate, Cannon County Schools
- Laura Davis, Knox County Schools
- Brian Davis, Shelby County Schools
- Kevin Deck, Williamson County Schools*
- Kristi Dragan, Wilson County Schools
- Laurie Driver, Knox County Schools*
- Melinda Fleischer, Rutherford County Schools
- Rashaunda Foster, Shelby County Schools
- Erin Glenn, Hamilton County Department of Education
- Mario Grant, Shelby County Schools
- Tiffani Harris, Jackson-Madison County School System
- Sarah Haynes, Bradley County Schools
- Curtis Herring, Arlington Community Schools
- Adrema Higgins, Lebanon Special Schools
- Eric Hoffman, Rutherford County Schools
- Tiffany Hogan, Johnson City Schools
- Michael Hubbard, Kingsport City Schools*
- Traci Jones, Achievement School District
- Joseph Jones, Cheatham County Schools
- Carol Keasley, Rutherford County Schools
- Jennifer Maag, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Tracy McAbee, Polk County Schools
- Adam Moss, Cleveland City Schools
- Jamie Opperman, Rhea County Schools
- Stephanie Page, Maury County Schools
- Brant Riedel, Shelby County Schools*
- Marion Samuel, Tipton County Schools*
- James Sullivan, Rutherford County Schools
- Liza Vaughn, Williamson County Schools
- Sarah White, Williamson County Schools
All ambassadors will receive training on the tasks they will be undertaking, and the group will meet in person and on virtual platforms throughout the 2018-19 school year. Educators will be compensated for the work to offset the additional effort and time commitment they are making to improve the state assessment program.
In addition to establishing the TNReady Ambassador program, several other adjustments have been made to better ensure that students can take TNReady seamlessly and without disruption.
The department recently hired a new executive director of assessment logistics, Denette Kolbe, who will oversee the administration of TNReady at the department.
Kolbe comes to the department from Putnam County Schools, where during the past 24 years she has served in a variety of roles, including teacher, principal, assistant director of schools and strategic decisions support supervisor.
Kolbe has been the district testing coordinator since 2011 and she has also been a member of the state’s Assessment Logistics Advisory Committee.
The state is in the process of hiring for another role that will solely focus on providing customer service for the state’s assessment program. The TNReady customer service specialist will develop and implement an ambitious customer service program, including proactive outreach to stakeholders such as testing coordinators, parents and teachers to learn how the state can continue to improve and respond to feedback.
These steps complement additional actions already in the works, including eliminating two TNReady end-of-course exams, eliminating the March stand-alone field test for the next two years, simplifying and streamlining test administration, bringing in a third party to perform an independent review of Questar’s technological capabilities, adjusting the pace of the transition to online testing and improving customer service.
In addition, the state will be releasing a new Request for Proposals (RFP) to identify the assessment vendor or vendors that can successfully administer the state test in 2019-20 and beyond.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.