TDOE Bullies–Parents Push Back

Momma Bears released a blog post about a letter recently sent to the Directors of TN school districts by the TN Department of Education. The letter was clearly an attempt to bully and intimidate parents and discourage them from refusing testing for their children.

Fortunately, United Opt Out recently posted an opt-out/refusal letter reportedly written by a group of TN parents that counters the arguments in the TDOE threat letter. You can find the parent letter here.

Please take a few minutes to read the blog, along with the opt-out/refusal letter. And then share them on social media. We must spread the word.

TCAP Writing Refusal

Our friends at TN Education Matters (TEM) have written a very informative blog post about the upcoming TN TCAP Writing Assessment (a.k.a., MIST). (You can read it by clicking on this link.) The TCAP Writing Assessment does not count towards student grades, nor teacher evaluations. And it looks like TEM will soon be releasing a second blog post that will tell us how to opt out of this assessment for our children:

“We know there are parents out there who suspect their children are being used as guinea pigs to field test next year’s common core assessment. And we know you want to opt your children out of the TCAP Writing Assessment so we are going to tell you exactly how to assert your parental rights to opt out in our next blog.” 

Please read this great blog post and stay tuned for its follow-up post.

Why I Fight

I have not posted here in a while since I am no longer an active member of Stop the Tennessee Testing Madness. However, I am still very much part of the cause and, on this final day of 2014, I felt compelled to post this blog. Thank you for taking the time to read this. And I hope that you and yours have a wonderful 2015. –Jennifer Croslin-Smith

My grandfather was labeled a failure by one of his classroom teachers as a child. And just a few months before he died at 93 years of age, he told my mother, with tears in his eyes, about how this teacher would mock him because of his reading problems. (He clearly had undiagnosed dyslexia.)

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My grandfather was one of the most intelligent men I will ever know. He made a living working at International Harvester over a period of 30 years. Even though he never finished the 7th grade, he could design and build the most beautiful cabinets and outbuildings; plant and cultivate amazing gardens; (literally) tame wild horses; repair any appliance, machine, or weapon (as he did in WWII); and shoot a gun with the skill of a sniper.


He never needed to ask for directions, even in places new to him, because he had an innate sense of direction that defied logic. He was a respected leader at his church and place of work, and he was funny, kind, helpful, independent, and giving. (His acts of kindness always touched me: He built a beautiful cedar chest, constructed with cedar logs harvested from my great-grandfather’s farm, for me. He also flew 2000 miles to attend both of my college graduations, and helped my father drive all of my belongings from California to Nashville when I moved there to attend Vanderbilt.) Last but not least, he was as stubborn as an ox: He walked the picket lines at Harvester more than once—and he never once crossed those lines.

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My grandfather–the child who was labeled a failure so many decades ago–would have undoubtedly been labeled a failure in our current drill and kill, testing-obsessed educational system. My grandfather was not a failure. And the children in our schools who cannot spit out high test scores aren’t failures either. The ones who have failed are those who believe test scores are the ultimate measure of a child’s, teacher’s, or school’s value.

(I now interrupt this post for a message to my detractors who question the motivation for my advocacy work: Now you know. I’m fighting for children like my grandfather. Oh, but I must not omit the fact that I am also fighting for the children I worked with in Title 1 schools. And I am fighting for my brother—an amazing young man who would have likely tanked your precious test scores. But he outworks most anyone, supports his family, writes amazing songs, parents his daughters like a champ, cares for his wife with respect and love, and plays a wicked electric guitar. I am not motivated by money, power, or prestige. I am motivated by a passionate, undying love for some people who have played very important roles in my life. And that is a much stronger motivation than any false pretense you have attempted to attribute to me. )

My grandfather died on January 28th of this year. I miss him and his fearless spirit tremendously. And in his honor, I will continue my quest to ensure that all children receiving a public education are treated with the respect and appreciation they deserve. My allies and I accomplished much in 2014, and I fully expect that our growing army of advocates will continue to walk the proverbial picket lines—and, like my grandfather, we will not stop until our mission has been accomplished.

In honor of Coleman Freeman Croslin. June 1, 1920-January 28, 2014IMG_2570



District Testing Calendar Law

Hope you enjoy this guest post by a dear friend and public education advocate from West Tennessee.

How on earth do I find out what tests my child is given at school?

You are in luck, parents!  In April of 2014, the Tennessee House & Senate wisely passed a law that requires every school district in Tennessee to list every district test, as well as every state-mandated test, on their school district websites before August 1st.  This law is fantastic!  Before this law was passed, unless parents specifically asked or were teachers themselves, parents really had no idea about all the district assessments and state tests that were given to their children.  Now parents can make informed decisions about testing for their children.

Simply look on your school district’s website to find the list of tests and the testing calendar for your child.  You might have to search a few layers of the site to find the information, but it should be there. (You can also do a web search for “testing calendar” and the name of your school district–e.g., “testing calendar Metro Nashville Public Schools”.)  If it is not, contact your school board member and/or Superintendent and ask why it isn’t there as the law requires it to be.

If your school district is especially proactive, it may even be in your school’s student handbook.  In fact, beginning with the 2015-16 school year, this awesome law requires that testing information be printed in each school’s student handbook.  This is a very good thing for parents to know.

Here is a link to the new law:



TCAP is Still TC*AP

Education Commissioner Huffman and Governor Haslam released the state-level 2013-2014 TCAP scores this morning. We are not going to waste any time reviewing the scores here because 1) we don’t believe the test scores accurately reflect what a child truly knows, and 2) it appears that the DOE uses creative statistical analyses, subjective cut-score determinations, and lots of PR spin to make these scores be whatever they want them be.

But we would like to point out that, just this morning, Commissioner Huffman once again indicated that TCAP isn’t a good test for measuring student progress. According to Nashville Public Radio, Mr. Huffman told reporters, “I think there’s some level of a question of whether TCAP captures some of the work our teachers are doing in reading…” (Ummm…Mr. Huffman, just about a year ago you testified before the Senate Education Committee and, during your testimony, you admitted that the TCAP is not “strong”.) To top it off, the vice-president of the education astro-turf “advocacy” group, SCORE, also told NPR the following: “‘What we would say is it’s not necessarily a complete assessment of what students are learning in the classroom,”…adding that the state needs a test that allows students to give written explanations to show what they really know.”

So, let’s get this straight: 35-50% of a teacher’s evaluation and 15-25% of a child’s grade are based on the results of a test that is not “strong”, nor “complete”. In what other universe is judging someone on a measurement that does not accurately measure what it’s supposed to measure OK?

Parents and teachers have been screaming for years that TCAP results do not fully reflect student or teacher skills. No one listened. Huffman essentially said the same thing almost a  year ago. No one cared. And now, like a proverbial broken record, we are hearing the same old song from Huffman, but this time a member of SCORE is singing backup. On behalf of hundreds of thousands of Tennessee students, teachers, and parents, we are here to say that it’s time the DOE starts singing a couple new tunes: “Scrap the TCAP” and “YPBA” (aka “Yes Performance Based Assessment).

Our only viable hope at this juncture is that the legislature will intervene during the 2015 legislative session and try to bring some sanity to teacher and student evaluations. So, on that note, please research the candidates running for the House and Senate in your district–and vote for those who are against the use of TCAP scores in student grading and teacher evaluations. If we can get enough of them in the legislature, maybe we can finally stop the madness!

Update/Call to Action on TCAP Fiasco

UPDATE: Representatives Bo Mitchell, Gloria Johnson, and Mike Stewart have filed an open records request regarding the TCAP fiasco. Sen. Mae Beavers has requested an Attorney General opinion on the legality of the DOE manipulating test scores. And Rep. Spivey and Sen. Bowling have reportedly asked the Comptroller to investigate the DOE’s conduct and expenditures regarding this issue. You can help by contacting your state representative, senator, and the governor (615-741-2001) and letting them know how you feel about this situation. (You can get your representatives’ contact info here.) Keep up the heat! They require our teachers and students be accountable–why should we expect any less from them?

Here is sample text you can use in your email/phone call to your representatives:


I am contacting you to express my concern over the delay in release and “post equating” of TCAP test scores by the Tennessee Department of Education. My child worked tirelessly to prepare for this test and it is very disconcerting that the scores were not released on time and that the DOE may have manipulated the scores. If the DOE insists on holding my child and his/her teachers accountable, I insist that the DOE be held accountable as well. Please push for a full investigation of this fiasco and consider supporting future legislature that would 1) require a transparent process for test development and scoring–including the determination of “cut scores”, 2) remove the requirement that TCAP scores be included in student grades, 3) stop the use of test scores in teacher evaluations, 4) allow parents to opt their children out of standardized testing. 

Thank you, 

Time to Roar

All we have every wanted is our children and teachers to be treated with respect. We have begged and pleaded for this simple courtesy, to no avail. It’s clear to many that Education Commissioner Huffman is the source of much of the testing madness in this state and his current TCAP score mess is the last straw in our humble opinion. (Please understand that we do not like the requirement that 15-25% of our children’s grades are dependent upon TCAP scores. But we also do not like our children being subjected to the whims of the TN Department of Education. The DOE expects our children to give 100%, yet the DOE does not hold themselves to the same standards–and that is wrong.) Our friends at Momma Bears have drawn a line in the sand and we encourage you to join them. Please click here to find out how you can help stop Huffman from inflicting any more of his oppressive policies on this state.

TCAP Slow Scores

Wow! The TDOE did not have TCAP quick scores back in time for schools to use them in student grades. As reported by TNParents,

“Just yesterday, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) informed districts that they will not have the TCAP “quick scores” back in time for districts to include them in grade calculations on final report cards! The scores, by law, make up 15-25%of a child’s final semester grades and teachers use the percentage of problems correct (i.e., quick scores) on the TCAP to determine the semester grades.”

For more information on this, please click here to read a post from

Show Us the Test!

We are very bothered by the reports of at least one error on the 4th grade TCAP, as well as the fact that parents are not allowed to see the test. If you are upset about this too, please send an email (or cut and paste this one) to the following email addresses:,, Please also email this to your state senator and house representative, school district superintendent, and school board representative.

To Whom It May Concern:

My child/ren is/are in  _____ grade/s at _____________ and it is my understanding that, based on student and parent reports, there was at least one practice test question on the 4th grade TCAP that was written incorrectly. If the test developer cannot get a practice test question written correctly, how can we be assured that the rest of the test was accurate? (,  I find this very disturbing because 15-25% of my child/ren’s grades and 35-50% of his/her teachers’ evaluations are dependent upon these scores. I am writing to formally request a copy of the TCAP test that my child/ren took so I can review it for accuracy. I believe that I, as a parent, have the right to review this test, especially since my child’s grades may be adversely affected by possible errors. If you do not have a copy of the test, I respectfully request that you ask Pearson for a copy of the test on my behalf.


(Include your name, address, and phone number)

Chances are the TN Department of Education is going to tell you that you can’t see the test, but we still want you to send the email because we want to, at least, draw the attention of legislators and others to this significant problem. Let us know what response you get, if any, in the comments section of this post.

Legislative Update 5/3/14

The Parental Notification of Testing bill was signed into law by Governor Haslam on May 1st. Click on this link for a summary of what this law entails.

The Parental Review of Materials was signed by Lt. Governor Ramsey on May 1st, but it does not appear that it has been signed by House Speaker, Rep. Harwell. Once it is signed by Rep. Harwell, it will be passed on to the governor and he will have 10 days from that date (excluding Sundays) to sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature. We will keep you updated on the progress of this bill.