Tennessee Comptroller Jason Mumpower this week released a report warning Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) officials to take additional steps to make sure they can recover assessment tests that students take online.

But TDOE officials told The Tennessee Star on Tuesday that they have already addressed the Comptrollers’ concerns.

“The delay in recovering test results was a problem noted several years ago using a different online testing platform,” said TDOE spokesman Brian Blackley, in an email to The Tennessee Star.

“This is no longer a problem with the new testing platform, which we have now tested extensively and found no evidence this problem exists.”

The Comptrollers’ audit said certain Tennessee school districts did not recover their students’ tests in a timely manner in the event of an outage. State officials have since hired a new vendor to oversee the process, but they have not yet tested the process to see if it works, the audit said.

The current vendor currently conducts paper-based assessments, but they plan to return to online testing this fall. Federal law requires that 95 percent of students in grades three through eight and students in high school participate in state assessments, the audit said.

Blackley said Tuesday that auditors’ last collected information for their report in August.

“The department has since conducted two of three planned online, secure verification tests of the testing platform. After more than 50,000 successful test submissions to date, we have identified no issues with recovering student tests in progress,” Blackley said.

“Additionally, a new dashboard capability has been added that allows districts to monitor individual student test progress. For 2020-21, all high school end of course (EOC) tests will be taken online, while grades two through eight tests and alternative tests will be administered on paper.”

The Star asked Blackley about the advantages of taking standardized tests on paper versus taking them online.

“Online test advantages include test security, less logistics, less cost (shipping, printing, etc.), more flexibility for district scheduling, and faster scoring and reporting,” Blackley said.

“Comprehensive security features are put in place to ‘lock down’ student access to other programs and the Internet during testing, and tests are only available to individual students with specific codes. This is much more secure than paper tests, which can be viewed by anyone at any time with access to the test booklet.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.