Trumpeting a ‘new and improved TNReady’

Radio ads tout why testing matters.

Caroline Bauman, Chalkbeat Tennessee | 4/17/2017, 11:32 a.m.
Radio ads tout why testing matters.
One-minute radio ads are now promoting the TNReady exam in conjunction with the April 17-May 5 testing window. (Photo: Laura Faith Kebede)

Jolinea Pegues

Jolinea Pegues

Two Tennessee teachers are getting some radio air time this month through ads running statewide to talk up TNReady, the state’s new standardized test that students in grades 3-11 are about to take.

The one-minute ads, which tout Tennessee’s test as “new and improved,” are voiced by Jolinea Pegues, a Trezevant High School teacher in Shelby County Schools, and Derek Voiles, the state’s 2017 Teacher of the Year from Hamblen County.

Derek Voiles

Derek Voiles

The two-week run goes through next week in conjunction with the state’s April 17-May 5 TNReady testing window. Students in grades 3-11 will test to measure their proficiency in math and English language arts.

The campaign was produced and paid for by Expect More, Achieve More, a coalition of more than 100 business, community and education organizations advocating for high K-12 academic standards in Tennessee. The effort was spearheaded by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, a Nashville-based education advocacy group founded by former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist.

This is the second year of TNReady testing, which unraveled last year with the failed rollout of Tennessee’s first online test and led Education Commissioner Candice McQueen eventually to cancel the assessment for grades 3-8. McQueen says students, parents and educators can expect a successful rollout this year under Questar, the state’s new testing company, which this week delivered printed testing materials to schools statewide. Only 25 districts have chosen to take the test online again.

“The radio campaign is aimed at parents, especially parents of public school students in grades 3-9 who are taking TNReady for the first time this year,” said SCORE spokeswoman Teresa Wasson. “We think it’s helpful for parents to hear real teachers explain how they plan to use the TNReady results to help students learn.”

Pegues, who teaches English at Trezevant High, says in her ad that “TNReady will help parents keep track of their child’s progress and will help teachers like me identify areas for student improvement.”

She continues: “TNReady focuses on reading, writing, math and real-world problem-solving. Because test-taking isn’t the goal; making sure our children are ready to compete is. And test time has been reduced 30 percent which ensures more quality classroom time. Because we want to see our children succeed on TNReady — and in life. ”

The messaging rings similar to a television ad that the coalition created last year featuring 2016 Teacher of the Year Cathy Whitehead of Chester County.

“The experience with last year’s ad reinforced something we already knew: Teachers are a voice that parents trust,” Wasson said. “When teachers explain how a high-quality assessment is an important part of the learning cycle, parents listen.”

She declined to give a price tag for the campaign.

(Follow Caroline Bauman: @CAROLINEBMN; email: CBAUMAN@CHALKBEAT.ORG)