The Edmond Sun

Education

May 1, 2013

State experiences second day of testing disruption

Lawmaker calls for moratorium on testing

EDMOND — District officials said students are testing today, while a current state lawmaker and former school administrator said students should get a pass this year on testing in light of the problems that have occurred.

Server malfunctions have affected thousands of students in Oklahoma and other states for the second day in a row, booting them out of online testing programs, according to a spokesperson from the State Department of Education.  

“A few of our sites are experiencing minor technology issues associated with the state’s testing vendor (Wednesday), but nothing like what occurred Monday or Tuesday,” said Susan Parks-Schlepp, district spokeswoman. “The testing complications forced us to suspend testing at all high schools, middle schools and Boulevard Academy on Tuesday afternoon. Because there is so much importance placed on these tests, we felt it was better to postpone the tests rather than risk poor testing conditions for students.

“We work very hard to provide comfortable, calm testing environments so that students are able to do their best. These interruptions have caused frustration, stress and anxiety among our students and administrators.”

State Rep. Curtis McDaniel, formerly a school administrator of a southeastern Oklahoma school district, said continuing with the testing process this year would be unfair to students.

“I don’t think they should have to suffer through a testing process that is having a ton of problems this year,” said McDaniel, D-Smithville. “I would like to see a moratorium put into effect this year. We’ll just start over next year when the testing provider has its act together.”

The Oklahoma State Department of Education experienced complications with online assessments for grades 6 through 12 throughout the school day Monday and for the better part of Tuesday.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said, “This is completely unacceptable. We are outraged that our school districts are not able to administer assessments in a smooth and efficient manner. This is especially disruptive for the children who have worked hard all year and now have the opportunity to let us know what they have achieved. To be interrupted during testing is a very difficult and stressful environment for our children and educators.”

According to the State Department’s Assistant Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability Maridyth McBee, the state is working closely with the testing company to find solutions that could alleviate the burden of students retaking the full tests.

“Rescheduling tests is possible but presents challenges,” Parks-Schlepp said of the Edmond district’s plans “For example, we have P.E. classes that will not be able to use the gyms where the testing computers are set up so we will have to find a place for those students to have class. In addition, we have to reschedule transportation for middle school students who are being bused to the high schools to complete their exams and then there’s the difficulty of rescheduling dozens of monitors.

“We are waiting to receive information from the State Department of Education on whether the testing window will be extended.”

The problem with CTB/McGraw-Hill affected other states, but mostly impacted students in Indiana and Oklahoma. Other testing vendors have experienced similar problems.

Daniel Sieger, a spokesman for CTB/McGraw-Hill, said the company was not granting interviews at this time, but released a statement Wednesday.

“We regret the impact on these schools and students and have made changes to correct the situation and online testing is resuming (Wednesday),” the company stated. “Subject to state and local policies, students affected by the interruption will be able to resume testing where they left off. While no data has been lost, we understand just how disruptive and frustrating these interruptions have been. The interruptions are not acceptable to students and educators or to CTB/McGraw-Hill. We have worked with the schools in these states for many years and value our relationships with them. We sincerely regret the problems we have caused.

“We are doing everything possible to ensure that testing will continue successfully through the remainder of the assessment windows.”

McDaniel said he believes the tests should be put off.

“I know that the testing system is meant to increase accountability, but I don’t think we will go totally off-track if we cut the kids a break one year when the testing process may be skewed,” McDaniel said.  

Late Wednesday afternoon, the State Department of Education issued a release stating that testing for grades 3-8 has been extended by two days, ending May 7 and the last day of testing for End-of-Instruction programs now will be May 14.

Other arrangements include:

• Students who were interrupted during English II and English III may retake the on-line portion but do not need to retake the writing portion of the test.

• For students who were disrupted during testing on Monday or Tuesday, an option is being provided for those who answered enough questions correctly to qualify for a proficient or advanced score. Those students will be excused from the retesting requirement. Some students may want to obtain the score they would have received if they completed the entire test. These students will be allowed to retest if they desire. Additionally, all students who did not obtain a proficient or higher score and were disrupted must retest as is the normal practice. If the student needs to retest, another form of the test will be provided during this testing window.

• Additionally, if students did complete the test, but endured multiple interruptions, they may retest if they choose.

• Districts also may order paper tests for students who have not yet completed their online testing.  

McBee said students making a proficient score based on an incomplete test would not negatively impact a student’s graduation or a school’s A-F Report Card.

“We do know the seriousness of this disruption for educators and students alike,” McBee said. “Please know that we are doing all we can to respond.”

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