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OSSBA on the Testing Problems

July 18, 2013

In case you missed this one (which I did earlier in the week), here is the Oklahoma State School Boards Association’s take on the testing debacle, as written by Jeff Mills:

It is very disappointing that our State Superintendent, Janet Barresi, has decided to cast the blame on someone else for this year’s testing failures and for future testing issues.  Superintendent Barresi was quoted in The Oklahoman expressing outrage over the testing failures and CTB/McGraw-Hill openly acknowledged that the failure was on their end, not the districts.   CTB/McGraw-Hill said, “we regret the impact…(of) system interruption” and “have made changes to correct the situation[.]” referring to the disruption of 3,000 Oklahoma students and 30,000 Indiana students on just the first Monday and Tuesday alone of federally mandated testing.  NBC News, May 1, 2013.

The testing company stated that the outage in Indiana occurred because “our simulations did not fully anticipate the pattern of live student testing.”  Superintendent Barresi was quoted saying, “I am outraged that our school districts are not able to administer assessments in a smooth and efficient manner.”  Spokesperson at that time for the SDE, Tricia Pemberton, stated, ” CTB/McGraw-Hill said it did not have enough ‘hardware space’ for the number of students who went online.  They assured us that if we continue in the fall, they will test it properly to make sure we don’t  have this problem again.”  NBC New, May 1, 2013. CTB/McGraw-Hill clearly admitted the problem was their fault, not the schools.

So why the change of heart?  After all, someone who oversees a $22 million budget should have ownership of a $27 million dollar contract.  On the contrary,  Superintendent Barresi was quoted saying,  “I had zero involvement in the entire process [testing and contract] from start to finish personally.”  The Oklahoman, May 20, 2013.  Finally, Superintendent Barresi  said “(The testing vendor) crashed for two days because of server problems, but almost every bit of it was due to district issues.  I’m not pointing fingers, but it is the reality.”  Tulsa World, July 3, 2013.

The elected office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction is vital to the growth of Oklahoma students.  It requires accountability and should be taken seriously by a leader that accepts responsibility when things go wrong, seeks to correct mistakes, and praises others for their hard work.

Time and again educators and school board members have offered their assistance to Superintendent Barresi only to have those requests ignored.  When these same people finally get fed up with not being taken seriously,  they take matters into their own hands and commission studies such as the report done recently by the Oklahoma Education Association on the problems associated with CTB/McGraw-Hill and spring testing and the A-F Report made by researchers at OU and OSU at the request of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council of School Administrators.  But these efforts are viewed as attacks on the State Department of Education rather than  helpful, collaborative  tools to be utilized by the SDE and are rebuffed as “whining” or outright ignored.

We will continue to advocate for Oklahoma school board members and the children they represent.

-Submitted by Jeff Mills, Ph.D., executive director, Oklahoma State School Boards Association

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