Home > Uncategorized > About that “stress-free testing experience”

About that “stress-free testing experience”

April 1, 2014

While many of us were driving back to our respective communities from the rally yesterday, the Oklahoma State Department of Education sent us a notice that all is well with testing. (The link is to the updated version that came out this afternoon.) Actually, it was more like, “Things are mostly well, and here are the places we still have concern as we get ready for testing.”

Editor’s Note: Below is updated information from the state’s testing vendor, including schools that have been removed from the moderate-risk category after completing work with the vendor. Several districts or schools should not have been included on the original list as they have no students participating in online testing. These districts/schools are: Deborah Brown, Dove Science Academy Elementary School, Flower Mound, Santa Fe South Elementary School Charter, Stanley Hupfield,

UPDATED: OSDE Works to Ensure Testing Issues Resolved

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 1, 2014) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has been working closely with its testing vendors to ensure as many potential issues as possible are resolved before computer-based assessments are administered beginning next month.

“It’s important that our students have a stress-free testing experience this year,” State Superintendent Janet Barresi said. “I’m thankful for the effort of our school district staff in working with the vendors to ensure trouble-free assessments.”

Spring testing begins April 10.

Districts statewide participated in a multi-step process organized by the testing vendors to list, prep and stress test all devices they will be using for assessments. This readiness process will help avoid the technical problems some schools encountered last year.

OSDE’s vendors have almost completed the process of contacting every district that reported even a minor glitch and have been working to address any issues or concerns. OSDE employees have received regular updates and, in some cases, helped facilitate communications.

“While this process has successfully achieved its goal of identifying issues early enough to put preventative measures in place, factors outside the control of the state still come into play at many different levels. It is impossible to predict every circumstance,” Barresi said.

The readiness process with CTB/McGraw-Hill, the state’s current vendor for 3-8 Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests and End-of-Instruction assessments, involved three steps: A survey in which districts described their network infrastructure and computers at each school; a statewide technology stress test on Jan. 28; and feedback from districts on how the stress test went at their schools.

CTB reported more than 38,000 concurrent users at the highest peak of the Jan. 28 stress test, with about 3,000 disruptions. Some of those cases might not be system-related disruptions, but rather an error on the user’s end.

Initially, only 12 districts did not complete any of the steps in the CTB readiness process. OSDE asked those districts to at least complete the technology survey — the first step. As of March 28, eight of those districts had responded to the department. Four districts had yet to do any steps at that time and remain at unknown risk. Those districts are: Beaver, Monroe, Ringling and South Coffeyville.

CTB classified districts as high-, moderate- or low-risk based on the results of the readiness process. It is working with every high- and moderate-risk district.

All the currently remaining moderate-risk districts failed to complete at least one of the three steps of the readiness process and have not returned calls or emails by CTB to discuss their issues, if there were any.

These are the moderate-risk districts CTB reported as of Monday, March 31:

  • Cottonwood
  • Cyril
  • Duke
  • El Reno
  • Glover
  • Grandview
  • Gypsy
  • Harper Charter Academy
  • Indiahoma
  • Justice A.W. Seeworth
  • Kildare
  • Kipp Reach College Prep.
  • Mannsville
  • Moyers
  • Oaks‐Mission
  • Peckham
  • Pleasant Grove
  • Shady Point
  • Spavinaw
  • Straight
  • Tannehill
  • Vinita
  • Waukomis
  • Welch

Ninety-one districts were rated as high-risk at the beginning of March by CTB, and 81 districts were rated as moderate-risk. By March 31, CTB had taken care of all high-risk districts moving them to low risk and reduced the number of moderate-risk districts to 24. The process is ongoing. Any high-risk or unknown-risk districts that remain will be given paper assessments.

Of 542 districts and public charter schools, 518 (96 percent) were rated as low-risk on the morning of April 1, an improvement from 377 districts on March 4.

Updated reports from CTB are available to the public here: http://ok.gov/sde/assessment-technology

OSDE will continue to actively communicate with districts and respond to any concerns or potential issues throughout the assessment process.

First of all, how delusional is Barresi to think our students can ever have a “stress-free testing experience”? In any school, there are a percentage of students who can show up and pass these tests with very little effort. For many students, however, the stakes are high and the effort is tremendous. We give online tests for grades six and up. Middle school students run the risk of losing electives and landing in remediation classes if they don’t pass. High school students (or younger students taking high school classes) must pass the EOIs to graduate.

Additional factors cause stress during the testing season. School schedules are disrupted. In many buildings, weeks of computer class time is disrupted by the testing process. That is a total loss of instructional time for subjects that aren’t even tested. Principals, counselors, teachers, and parents are also on edge, hoping that all goes well and everybody crosses their i’s and dots their t’s. No, wait, that’s backwards.

My next observation is that now we’ve taken to calling out the four districts that didn’t even respond to the SDE’s technology survey. Remember back in January when Barresi threatened all of us? I wonder whatever came of that.

The SDE also wants us to know that while there may be some testing disruptions (my math has their numbers at just under eight percent of users – an increase from last April’s debacle) some are likely on the end of the users and not the testing company. Of course we wouldn’t want to blame the testing company. It’s always a function of the users. Blame the schools, as the SDE has done for more than three years now.

All I know is that this had better be a better year for testing. I’d trade blog traffic for less stress in the schools. If we have anything similar to last year, however, don’t point at the schools. There’s only one state superintendent. Two major testing catastrophes on her watch would pretty much seal the deal.

2 months, 22 days…

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  1. joeddins
    April 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    There is stress only for children, their parents, and their teachers? How long until TPS And OKCPS, will not have any career teachers for 3rd grade reading and 9th grade Algebra I ? How much stress does a teacher experience when their students are humiliated in this process?
    Thank you for your efforts to keep us up to date.

    Like

    • April 1, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      You’re very welcome. And you’re right on target. Eventually, and by design, we will have more schools on the improvement list than not. That’s how reforms work (or don’t).

      Like

  2. April 1, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I always try to tell my daughter’s story as often as I can. When she was in Kindergarten, she was sick with a sever upper respiratory infection and was out of school for over a week. The day she returned, still taking antihistamine and antibiotic medication, she had to take the test that she had missed. The test results proved that she needed to go to Developmental First even though she had attended a pre-school with an Abeka curriculum for 2 years, could read, write and spell before Kindergarten and her teacher had noticed nothing that would indicate any learning problems. The principal and I had many conversations until she finally agreed that my daughter could “try” 1st grade. She successfully completed the next 12 grades including concurrent enrollment her senior year and graduated from high school with 12 college credit hours. She graduated from UNLV with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. She currently manages a household that includes 6 year old twins.

    Her brother followed her to the same school the year after she was in Kindergarten. His birthday was in May, he was the younger sibling (his sister had strong leadership skills), he was often sick with upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia. Kindergarten was when we learned that he needed very strong glasses. He spent two years in Mother’s Day Out because pre-school was not right for him. He took THE TEST. The recommendation came for him to attend Developmental First. The principal invited me to a meeting in which my husband and I sat on one side of a table and the principal, K teacher, DF teacher, 1st grade teacher, counselor, psychometrist and central office C & D specialist sat on the other side. The principal told me that my son was recommended for DF and I said, “I agree.” Every head swiveled toward her and every mouth gaped. He is now a successful electrician working for a major food distribution company.

    Developmental First was right for him. It wasn’t right for my daughter. Her testing was unfair. With high stakes testing, we will see more and more students who are tested in non-ideal circumstances.

    Like

    • April 1, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      Thank you for telling your story and highlighting everything wrong with the testing culture. I almost feel this comment should be its own blog post.

      Like

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