State education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Tuesday the 31 teachers and six testing coordinators who will serve as the inaugural group of TNReady ambassadors.
The group of educators and testing coordinators will serve as thought partners and advisers for the department and its assessment vendors to provide on-the-ground perspective and feedback on the state assessment program for the 2018-19 school year.
Among those selected as TNReady ambassadors were Sam Houston Elementary School teacher Adrema Higgins and Wilson Central High School biology teacher Kristi Dragan.
Higgins recently was a first-place winner of a Henry Ford Innovation Nation Teacher Innovator Award. First-place winners received an innovation teaching kit that included “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation” season two DVD set, merchandise from the Henry Ford and more.
The TNReady ambassadors program was established to continuously improve the state’s assessment program and tap into the expertise of those in the field. As TNReady ambassadors, the 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,” 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.”
Applications were accepted during the summer, and more than 900 educators across the state applied for one of the 37 available spots.
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 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 were made to better ensure 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 was the district testing coordinator since 2011, and she was also 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.
The steps complement additional actions already in the works, including the elimination of two TNReady end-of-course exams, elimination of the March stand-alone field test for the next two years, simplification and streamline of test administration, the addition of a third party to perform an independent review of Questar’s technological capabilities, adjustment of the pace of the transition to online testing, and improvement of customer service. In addition, the state will release a new request for proposals to identify the assessment vendor or vendors that can successfully administer the state test in 2019-20 and beyond.