MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

June 27, 2013

Computer glitches prompt test challenge

Education Association will ask that results be invalidated

Local school officials say the Oklahoma Education Association’s goal to have 2013 standardized test results invalidated is probably a good idea.

But what the OEA should be addressing is a “flawed system” and “too much testing” instead, those officials said.

Muskogee’s Superintendent Mike Garde said it may be necessary to invalidate May’s test results, but making the students take them over would be a problem.

“There’s already too much time dedicated to testing,” Garde said. “But I do think if there is any question of the validity of these test results, then they should not be held accountable for them.”

OEA announced its representatives will attend today’s State Department of Education meeting to ask the state school board to invalidate test results that normally would be used for teacher, school and district evaluations. More than 9,000 students were disrupted during testing on April 29 and 30, according to the SDE.

Testing Company CTB/McGraw Hill reported problems with their servers those days while uploading student assessment results. Students across the state were reportedly knocked off the system mid-assessment.

Local school officials said then the interruption was a serious distraction for the students, and it was difficult to find the time in the school days left in the year to complete the tests.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said via email Wednesday that the SDE is reviewing OEA’s report and seeking more information.

“The state’s Central Purchasing Division is working with the testing vendor to determine damages per the contract,” Barresi wrote. “An independent study has been commissioned to determine the impact on test results from this year compared to other years.”

Fort Gibson Superintendent Derald Glover said while he’s certain the testing interruptions affected students in his district, he’s not certain they kept any students from passing the standardized tests.

Consequently, Glover said he’s less worried about invalidating the results than addressing the whole system of standardized testing.

“I think the whole system is flawed at this point. This is just one incident of the problems we have with high-stakes testing,” he said. “I’m not in favor of high-stakes testing to begin with.”

Barresi did not say in her written response if there was a possibility of students being forced to retake exams, but she did say there have been and are optional retakes possible.

“We extended the testing window during spring testing, and students were given the option of retaking their tests then,” she said.

Secondary students who were taking end-of-instruction assessments when the system problems happened and scored below proficient have an option of retaking those tests until Aug. 2, she said.

OEA released a report Tuesday it says verifies CTB/McGraw Hill was “grossly deficient in its ability to meet the needs of Oklahoma schools and students.”

The OEA examined testing at nine school districts across the state and talked with school officials at each.

All reported other significant problems beyond the interruptions students had during testing.

At Okemah Public Schools, for example, more than 60 students were testing when the system crashed.

“There were dozens of students who never received a raw score and dozens more who received a raw score that turned out to be incorrect,” Okemah’s Curriculum Director Amy Duncan said in the report. “When the printed report arrived from CTB, the scores listed differed, sometime significantly, from the scores shown on the students’ screens.”

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.

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