New online testing glitches leaving states flummoxed around the country

Posted May 8

Tennessee is just the latest state to scrap required end of year exams after vendor fails to deliver. (Deseret Photo)

Tennessee last week became the latest state to cancel its standardized tests for the year, after glitches in the online testing system became unmanageable, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

Pressure to keep pace with technology while rigorously measuring student progress has led states not only to hurry tests without properly testing the systems, and critics argue this is just another example of systems being placed ahead of student needs.

“These fiascos are the latest example of what happens when testing policy is driven by politicians and corporate interests, not parents, teachers, and assessment experts,” Robert Schaeffer, the public education director the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, told U.S. News & World Report.

Last month it was Texas that stranded thousands of students who submitted exam answers for their state achievement tests but those answers were not saved. "This happened when students tried logging back in after they’d already logged out once, been kicked off the system for 30 minutes of inactivity or temporarily lost their Internet connection," the Dallas Morning News reported.

In that fiasco, the Texas Education Agency issued a statement sharing the blame with the Education Testing Service, which provided the test. "Educational Testing Service is not new to administering assessments on a large-scale basis, so I cannot accept the transition to a new testing vendor as an excuse for what occurred," Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath said in a statement. "TEA also shares in the responsibility in the proper administration of these assessments. As an agency, we did not live up to that commitment."

Around the same time last month, Alaska canceled all its standardized tests for the year.

“I don’t believe under the circumstances that the assessment we were administering was a valid assessment,” Susan McCauley, interim commissioner of the state education department, told the Washington Post. “Validity relies on a standardized assessment condition, and things were anything but standardized in Alaska last week.”

And just last week, New Jersey students were met with a blank screen when they tried to log on to take their tests. Echoing his Texas counterpart, New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe called the problem "totally unacceptable," reported, blaming the problem on Pearson, its testing vendor.



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