TN(not)Ready - part 1

A Timeline and Explanation of Governor Haslam’s Protested “Listening” Tour

On Tuesday, August 21st at noon, the Tennessee School Boards Association forwarded to school board members, a press release from Governor Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a multi-phase plan, highlighted by a statewide listening tour, to improve delivery of the state’s elementary and secondary assessments known as TNReady. The goals of the engagement plan and tour are to:

  1. Engage in an open conversation about assessment and ways to improve administration;
  2. Gather feedback that can inform a smooth delivery of state assessments this school year and beyond, including feedback on the selection of the state’s next assessment partner to be chosen later this school year;  
  3. Discuss how to better provide schools, educators, parents and students with meaningful and timely results from assessments; and
  4. Distinguish assessment content from delivery in an effort to focus on the value assessments can provide.

“Tennessee’s unprecedented improvement in education is the result of high academic standards and an assessment that measures knowledge of those standards,” Haslam said. “Without aligned assessments, we don’t know where our students stand and where we need to improve. We finally have a test that is aligned to Tennessee’s strong academic standards, and I don’t want recent assessment delivery issues to cause us to lose sight of why we have these tests in the first place. Delivering the test without disruption is essential and we must get it right. I am confident this listening tour and process will inform the critical work ahead of us.”            

The listening tour will consist of six stops throughout the state and provide an opportunity for educators, school technology and assessment coordinators, and school district administrators to share information about recent challenges related to the online delivery of state assessments. Each meeting will encourage feedback on how the state can continue to improve its assessment; a discussion of steps made to-date to improve test administration in 2018-19; and a conversation on ways to improve test delivery through the oversight and selection of the state’s next assessment partner, which will occur later this school year. Haslam and Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen will attend each leg of the tour. 

Haslam has tapped former long-time educator, and former executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, Wayne Miller to facilitate the listening tour meetings and outcomes.  

“As someone who has spent his entire career in public education, I know when difficult issues arise it often takes more listening than talking to resolve them and move forward in partnership and collaboration,” Miller said. “I am excited about the process the governor has put forward and honored to facilitate conversations with educators throughout the state. We are all in this together.” 

To assist with the listening tour, Haslam has convened an educator advisory team to guide the feedback sessions with Miller. Advisory team members will participate in each meeting, gather information and feedback and develop a set of principles and recommendations for consideration by the governor as well as the next administration. The three-member advisory team includes:

  • Cicely Woodard, the 2018 Tennessee Teacher of the Year and a math teacher at Freedom Middle School in Franklin Special School District;
  • Derek Voiles, the 2017 Teacher of the Year and an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Lincoln Heights Middle School in Hamblen County School District; and
  • Dr. Mike Winstead, the current Tennessee Superintendent of the Year and Maryville City Director of Schools.

“Tennessee educators are committed to improving educational outcomes for our students, and assessments are an important and necessary component for us to meet that commitment,” Woodard said. “I am appreciative of the governor’s recognition of the need to continue to get feedback, and I look forward to working with the governor and educators to improve assessment delivery.”

The listening tour will begin Friday, Aug. 24, in Knoxville and be followed by stops planned for Hamilton County, Shelby County, Williamson County, Greene County and Gibson County. Specific locations and times are being finalized.

Following the listening tour, the next phases of the process will include implementing feedback from the listening tour, refining the requirements of the state’s next assessment partner, providing on-the-ground oversight of the fall test administration, and developing opportunities for feedback from educators and stakeholders.


Later, in response to questions from Knox County Schools, Governor Haslam’s press secretary sent this information, which later proved to be false:

The meetings are open and we will send out a media advisory on Thursday morning.

The invitations are being extended to teachers, principals, test administrators, etc. to sit around the table and be part of the discussion. The goal of the listening tour is to hear from the people on the ground, directly involved with the testing, to get their direct feedback on how to make this process better. That is why it is being limited to educators. But your school board members are welcome to attend.

Thank you,

Jennifer Donnals | Press Secretary
State Capitol, Ground Floor
600 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37243

Of particular concern, is that the Governor’s office never requested to use the facilities or followed ANY or our KCS policies regarding use of our facilities. Select sections of the policy are here:

Policy E-130: Community Use of School Facilities

GENERAL REGULATIONS The use of school buildings and property may be permitted in accordance with these regulations at any time when the principal states that the premises are not required for school purposes.

School property may be used for school-related activities on weekdays without application and without charge if permission is granted by the principal of the school. However, this use must still be scheduled by the school to avoid the creation of conflicting facilities reservations.

It shall not be necessary for any application to be made to use the school facilities for any school related activity. However, school-related activities shall be properly scheduled and tracked to ensure that conflicts in scheduling do not arise. School-related activities include:

a) parent-teacher activities;
b) activities of school-related civic clubs, groups or School Support Organizations ;
c) school club meetings, properly supervised by a teacher in the school;
d) classroom groups properly supervised, and
e) educational meetings called by the principal or authorized member of the school administrative staff.

All such meetings are to be arranged through the principal of the school involved.

While state law requires that school boards across the state implement and enforce policies for their school districts, that becomes impossible when some believe they are above following those policies.

From the beginning, the process was laid out just like the unethical “Delphi Method” we have repeatedly experienced in Knox County. A most basic summary of this method is that it uses very practiced facilitators to guide discussion ONLY where the facilitators want it to go, while manipulating discourse to come to PRE-DETERMINED conclusions.

The media, while reporting as much as possible, with limited background knowledge, fails to notice seemingly insignificant contradictions and participants are arranged so that they are unable to see the whole group and CANNOT see these manipulations. This is why it is NECESSARY, with regard to transparency, that meetings be FULLY OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, and also why those planning the meetings work to ensure that the full meeting cannot be seen. This can be achieved either by manipulating the size of the group and the space to be so small that it is visually impossible to see the full meeting or by opening the meeting like a public meeting, but then dividing into small groups in multiple rooms. Ensuring that NO person can hear all of the discussion allows them to later publish whatever “results” they like.


An example of Delphi style manipulation can be found in the questions asked of math teachers who participated:

The facilitator asked how many math teachers were in the room and because I had chosen my own seat, rather than the seat provided for me, I was at a corner of the square arrangement and could easily see 7 hands go up. However, those in the group or those close to the group could not turn their heads quickly enough to see all hands, before he asked the next question. The facilitator asked how many of those teachers preferred a paper test and counted to five out loud. He then asked how many preferred computer-based tests and counted to three, trailing off and acting suddenly confused. He then quickly asked the first question again, quickly counted five, quickly asked the second question again, counting to FIVE, and said, “So, it is about half and half, right?”

The back and forth had confuses people who might have seen these were not the same or who may have noticed that there were NOT ten math teachers in the group. However, since those at the front, the facilitators, and others are already nodding in agreement, they feel pressure to also agree.

Based on the pre-printed nameplates, which ensure nobody participates without being specifically selected, there were very few identified as “math” teachers. This makes it even more difficult for anyone to determine WHO even answered the question. Those identified by only their grade level may have self-identified as math teachers, but there is no opportunity to determine that or whether some of those representing the Department of Education also answered.

Whether the teachers were actually split, 50/50, is impossible to determine by anyone in the room. However, the final conclusion he came to may not have even really been noticed to match NONE of that. The final, announced, conclusion was, “So you all feel that a combination of paper and online would be best.”

No, no, NO!
Nobody in that room said that, with the exception of the facilitator.
Yet, that is the conclusion that is recorded as coming from this group.

Will the next governor use this unethical method? It depends on whether YOU and I ALLOW this to continue. And THAT depends on whether YOU an I continue to vote for the legislators who are CURRENTLY IN OFFICE,  who KEEP VOTING TO KEEP TNREADY, and who REFUSE TO HOLD ACCOUNTABLE, the testing company, QUESTAR, or the COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.

While some of our legislators, in this ELECTION SEASON, are suddenly declaring that they disagree with all of this, we know that they have not stopped it, after EIGHT YEARS.  And if they haven’t stopped this after EIGHT YEARS, they sure as hell aren’t going to stop it just because there is a new governor in town.

As long as we keep these legislators, Tennessee students will continue to suffer, while parents, teachers, and the public are lied to, regarding trumped up visions of “successes” used to make the governor look like he has actually done something while in office.


Comments are closed.