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Problems at Oklahoma’s school testing system not new

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
May 1, 2013
 

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After 2 days of server problems, some Oklahoma  junior high and high school students could access their necessary exams on Wednesday. But there’s still frustration with the system, and some districts reported scattered outages, and blaming provider CTB McGraw Hill…

“These tests they always stall. You’re taking a question, you’re fine. You’re answer another question, you’re fine. You answer another question, you’re fine. But then your computer stalls and you have to go through this long process, and by the end of it, you’re only halfway through the test and you’ve run out of time.”

Jay Smith is a 9th grader from Oktaha, about a half hour south of Muskogee. He’s one of about 3-thousand students across the state who had problems with their tests Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s ridiculous that we have to worry about if we’re going to have enough time to take a test that we know we can take, we can take under normal circumstances, that we took last year.”

“It seems to occur every year for about as long as the industry has been moving towards computer administered tests.”

Monty Neill, Executive Director of the think tank Fair Test, says this is nothing new for the testing industry. And just as Oklahoma was having problems, nearly 30-thousand students in Indiana were facing the same issue. They also contract with CTB McGraw Hill. Their problems go all the way back to 2010, before Oklahoma had even signed their current deal. Thus, the dilemma.

“Every one of these test companies has had major error problems.”

“The reason that I have hope is because of the transparency with the company in saying what they did wrong and how they are fixing it. So it’s something that we can observe and verify. It’s not a mystery in the cloud.”

Maridyth McBee is an Assistant State Superintendent. And more changes are coming, as Oklahoma starts using tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers in 2014.

“We will need to have paper options with PARCC. That’s always been the plan, we had hoped to have not as many, but I think that we won’t be able to go 100% online.”

PARCC is a coalition of states who will all administer the same tests in reading and math. The changes reduce the number of tests for grades 3 through 8, from 26 now to 25.

At the State Capitol Wednesday, a group of students, educators and Democratic legislators gathered to advocate for more funding for Oklahoma schools. As everything wrapped up, Representative Jerry McPeak asked how the students would rank the state Department of Education, in light of this week’s testing woes:

“F”

McGraw Hill is Oklahoma’s fifth test company in the past decade. Maridyth McBee says switching yet again would just add more risk to the system.

The state Department of Education has extended the deadline a couple days for tests. Grades 3 through 8 now have until May 7th, End of Instruction tests for high schools end May 14th.

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