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Education Matters 1-17
Testing a valuable gauge for all of us
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The holiday break is now behind us and we have completed our second full week of school after the break.  It seems very early to start talking about student assessments and testing, but in just a few short weeks the new TN Ready assessment will be given to the students of Warren County and all across Tennessee.
The TN Ready assessment is the new and improved TCAP test. The old assessment was given on paper and used the all-too-familiar bubble sheets, but the new and improved TN Ready assessment will be given totally online providing a whole new set of challenges for students, teachers, and administrators.
According to the Tennessee Department of Education website, “The TN Ready TCAP will provide all of us – educators, parents, and students – with better information about our students’ progress toward college and career readiness. Annual assessments serve as a crucial academic check-up to make sure all students are moving forward. TN Ready is designed to assess true student understanding and problem-solving abilities, not just basic memorization skills. Parents and teachers have told us these are the critical-thinking abilities they want our children to have in order to be successful, lifelong learners.”
The first assessment window begins Feb. 8 to March 4, with the second window opening April 18 to May 13. I would like to encourage all parents to go to the Tennessee Department of Education website, www.tn.gov/education/topic/tnready, to find our more information about this new assessment. At the Department of Education website, parents can access a parent guide for TN Ready, view helpful resources, and gather information about the new assessment.
This assessment is very important not only to our schools and district, but also to our teachers, administrators, parents, and most importantly our students. Along with a new assessment comes a new accountability system for districts and schools. 
This year is a baseline year so the data gathered this school year will serve as the building blocks for the years to follow, gauging the learning of our students and their readiness for college and career, as well as a base for goal setting for our district and schools. Part of our accountability system is ensuring we test at least 95 percent of our students annually. Of course our goal is always 100 percent tested but we must ensure at least 95 percent of all Warren County students in grades 3-11 are assessed. 
Parents, we need your help to make sure we meet this important goal. If students are ill during the testing window, please use the same judgment as you would if your child were sick during a regular school day. If your child is running a fever, vomiting, or too ill to attend school, of course we would not expect them to come to school, but we would ask you contact your child’s school to arrange a time to take the assessment when your child feels better before the window closes.
Allowing students to take the assessments helps us meet our requirement but also allows the students to display the knowledge they have worked to attain during the school year.
The TN Ready assessment is new to us all and is important in many ways. Teachers and students have been preparing for this new challenge in education. Please know that with all change comes frustration when goals are not reached.
 We will reach our goals over time so if we don’t get the results we all want, we can’t quit trying to improve. As the old saying goes, we are in a marathon not a sprint.
Thank you all in advance for your patience during this time of change and if you need more information about TN Ready, please feel free to contact your child’s school.

Bobby Cox is director of schools for the Warren County School System.