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Are You Testing?

May 1, 2013

Maybe it would help to sing the above title in rounds in the style of Frere Jacques. If instead of a minor blog, we were a 24 hour news network, we’d be in day three of block letter coverage of CHALK BLOCK 2013, replete with scary intro music.

Instead, we need to be more thoughtful about this. Today, schools saw fewer disruptions of online testing around Oklahoma, but students, parents, teachers, and administrators are still dealing with a lot of uncertainty. I don’t know how the SDE plans to inform the public of what will become of examen interruptus, but late this afternoon, they sent the following email to districts:

Online State Testing Update

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 1, 2013) – The State Department of Education informed district testing coordinators and superintendents on Wednesday morning to begin online testing again after receiving word that the CTB/McGraw-Hill system was operational after two days of disruption due to out-of-state server problems.

After a conference call with the president of the testing company Wednesday morning, State Superintendent Janet Barresi commented, “As I’ve said before, I am extremely frustrated by this situation and am focused on the students being able to complete their assessments in an optimal environment. I will explore all the state’s options in the contract to ensure the students, districts and state’s needs are fully met. We must have a smooth, stress-free assessment atmosphere so students can perform at their peak ability, and parents and educators can have confidence in the assessment process.”

State Department of Education staff worked continuously with district staff and the testing company throughout the two days of disruption. They worked overnight Tuesday to address some of the issues, making the following actions available to students and districts:

  • The testing windows for both the Grade 3-8 and End-of-Instruction assessments are extended by two days. This change moves the last day of testing for grades 3-8 to May 7 and the last day of testing for the End-of-Instruction program to May 14.
  • 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.

Dr. Maridyth McBee, Assistant State Superintendent of Accountability and Assessment, 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.”

The testing contract was awarded in the normal bidding process, through the State Department of Central Services.

The way that message reads to me, students will not gain any relief from this disruption. If a test has enough correct answers, in spite of being incomplete, the student will pass, and not have to retest. Otherwise, no deal. And if you need this test to graduate, best of luck to you.

Also curious to me is why the last sentence was included. It has nothing to do with the rest of the message. Yes, the SDE has had a lot of questions about the bidding process. Remember – first the contract was awarded to CTB, then there were “administrative challenges,” and the contract was revoked. Then it was again awarded to CTB. This delayed the administration of the writing test – usually given in February – to April.

Not addressed is how this will affect the “growth” component of the A-F Report Cards – if we even have them this year. Can anybody with a straight face say we’re measuring average student growth when so many students won’t even have finished the tests? Or what about the Focus and Priority Schools? I know we have to meet the terms of our NCLB waiver, but will we use this sorry test cycle and its polluted data to determine the fate of children and schools?

The SDE did send out a second, clarifying email this afternoon, giving schools additional guidance on communicating with parents and making plans with student scores:

District Test Coordinators,I want to clarify a statement issued earlier today regarding the option for students to use a test score from an incomplete test.

For students who were disrupted during testing on Monday or Tuesday, we are offering options. If the student answered enough questions correctly to qualify for a proficient or advanced score, that student may be excused from the retesting requirement if agreed upon by the student and the district. Some students may want to obtain a complete score based on the entire test. These students will be allowed to retest if they desire. All students who did not obtain a proficient or higher score, 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 once the student’s original test is invalidated.

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

As another option, districts who desire, may order paper tests for students who have not yet completed their online testing. For students whose tests need to be invalidated, districts my request paper or online via the Testing Status Application located on the state single sign-on. For students who have not started an online test, paper tests can be ordered through CTB’s Additional Orders link. If students are scheduled in an online session and paper tests are ordered, the district will need to mark the student as “Other” in the Not Tested Codes.

CTB believes that the files of students’ scores based on incomplete tests will be available tomorrow. The file will be posted on the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s single sign-on site.

Please share this information with concerned parents and students to reassure them of the solutions we are seeking to address the online technical problems.

Maridyth McBee, PhD

Assistant State Superintendent

Accountability and Assessment

Do you feel reassured?

No I don’t. No I don’t.

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  1. Rob miller
    May 1, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    You are absolutely right! For the SDE to provide guidance to students that if you earn a proficient score based on the questions you answered, “you’re good to go” is ridiculous. Let’s use the algebra I EOI as an example. Last year the passing score was 47% which translates to a scale score of 700. To earn an advanced score, the student had to score thirty percentage points higher. In short, 26/55 was passing while 42/55 was advanced—BIG difference. If a student scored advanced on his or her 8th grade math test last year, this student would not earn a point in the growth calculation if they accepted the proficient score on this year’s EOI. The student is thinking to him or herself, why take it again and risk failing? There is nothing to gain by earning a higher score. At the same time, the school is penalized in the whole school growth calculations. Whatever validity the SDE believes exists in the A-F model is shot. They just don’t care.

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  2. BrBan
    May 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I’m still wondering why the last statement on the first ‘official’ statement from the SDE of OK was included. It is irrelevant what happened in other states. By the way, Pearson, the previous testing vendor was not one of the ‘other’ testing vendors that had issues

    I’ll include the entire statement below.
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –
    FOR MORE INFORMATION:
    Sherry Fair
    Communications Director
    405-521-4894, 405-761-9372
    sherry.fair@sde.ok.gov

    Tricia Pemberton
    Senior Communications Specialist
    405-521-3371, 405-431-7195-cell
    tricia.pemberton@sde.ok.gov
    press release logo

    State Experiences Second Day of Testing Distruption

    OKLAHOMA CITY (April 30, 2013) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education experienced complications with online assessments for grades 6 through 12 throughout the school day on Monday and for the better part of Tuesday.

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

    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.”

    “We are working closely with the testing company to remedy the situation. Once that is done, we will have discussions about how to proceed with accommodations for the districts and how to proceed with CTB,” Barresi said.

    According to the State Department’s Assistant Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability, Dr. 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.

    “Right now we are evaluating several good ideas from district superintendents and SDE staff for how best to accommodate school districts,” McBee said. “Once we are up and running again and can determine the full impact of this, we will finalize plans for expanding the testing window and any other accommodations deemed appropriate.”

    The problem with CTB McGraw Hill affected other states. Other testing vendors have experienced similar problems.

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  1. May 2, 2013 at 7:33 am
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