MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 22, 2014

State testing called off after computer crashes

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— State-mandated tests were suspended Monday because of server crashes with the state’s testing vendor.

Superintendent Janet Barresi directed the testing vendor, CTB/McGraw-Hill, to suspend testing after about 8,100 Oklahoma students experienced problems such as computers moving very slowly or freezing altogether, according to The Associated Press. The disruptions affected students taking high school end-of-instruction exams and those taking tests in grades six through eight.

The disruption kept 41 Warner eighth-graders from logging onto the reading test, said Warner High School Principal Jeremy Jackson.

“My eighth-graders are asking repeatedly when we are going to make up the test, and seem very stressed,” Jackson said, adding that passing the state reading test affects a student’s ability to get a driver’s license. “They were mentally prepared to test today. We now have to wait until the state department allows us to proceed and reschedule our session.”

Other area districts reporting computer problems included Muskogee, Hilldale, Fort Gibson, Wagoner and Oktaha.

“We are very apprehensive about the testing issue, primarily because it may push testing further out of the target date for completion, especially if it continues to crash,” said Melony Carey, Muskogee Public Schools’ director of secondary education. “At the high school level we will be coming up on Advanced Placement testing, too. Tomorrow, the high school will also be online for testing, so we hope CTB can withstand the stress.”

MPS Reading and Assessment Coordinator Joyce Weston said educators had hoped to finish most testing this week.

“The issue with our teachers and testing personnel is scheduling those sessions back again,” Weston said. “Our other biggest factor is having monitors to come in an additional day or time to proctor these tests. These disruptions have not only affected our students, teachers and testing staff, they have disrupted our parents’ and community members’ schedules.

“At this time, we still have our OCCRA tryout to contend with. Most of those are also online,” Weston said, referring to field trials for next year’s Oklahoma Core Curriculum Reading Assessment.

The disruption did not affect state tests in grades three through five, which are taken on paper.

This is the second year computer glitches with CTB/McGraw Hill delayed school testing. In late April 2013, the testing company reported server problems while uploading student test results.

Hilldale Middle School Principal Darren Riddle said about 100 students were not able to log onto the tests Monday morning.

“Last year, students were able to log on, but were kicked off,” Riddle said.

State Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, condemned the state testing program Monday in a media release by the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus.

“The state Department of Education paid $12 million for this testing system,” said McPeak, a retired teacher. “It didn’t work last year, and it’s not working today. You’d think someone at the Department of Education would get the message.”

McPeak said the department is “eager” to grade public schools.

“Yet today, they were able to get only 11,000 students online to test, of the 678,000 students enrolled in our schools,” he said. “That’s less than 2 percent. If it weren’t so horrible, it would be funny to watch the state Department of Education explain how that 2 percent is a passing grade.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.