The Unanticipated Problem with Testing

If you live in Indiana, and if you have children (or have friends with children), you may have noticed some headlines yesterday:

ISTEP computer glitches boot out 27,000 students
Testing company’s problems worsen in third year of contract. Some educators question student results

Several Schools Suspend ISTEP+ For Day After Glitch Slows Online Tests

IPS asks schools to suspend ISTEP testing because of online problems

I can post more, but it would take too much time.

Now, there are a few things I would like to point out, but then I’m going to stop because I don’t want to get my blood pressure too high this early in the morning.

Problem 1: McGraw Hill, who has been contracted to provide the IN tests through June 2014 has had glitches every year since the contract began. 2011: 10,000 students booted from the test. 2012: 9,000 students. 2013: 27,000 students.

Long story short: in the last three years, 46,000 students have had their tests taken away from them in the middle of the session. And let’s remember, these are third through eighth graders.

Problem 2: Because of the immense pressure on states to perform under impossible requirements, officials can now skew data because of the glitches. This quote, from the IndyStar article, stood out in particular:

In 2011, when 10,000 students were booted out of the system, 215 scores were invalidated by the state because they were lower than expected. About 723 students with scores that were higher than expected saw no change.

Now, I know in the long run, 215 students is a drop in the bucket, but the precedent being set is absolutely inexcusable. This is opportunistic cheating and score buffering.

Problem 3: Let’s compare this to paper-and-pencil testing for a moment. Students were booted out of the test, at times in the middle of reading a passage, and not allowed to log back in. Officials are saying testing will resume as normal on Tuesday and Wednesday. How do you expect a child, who is already feeling immense anxiety over the test, to have valid results?

photo credit: albertogp123 via photopin cc

photo credit: albertogp123 via photopin cc

In essence, this would be like a teacher taking a testing booklet from students at random during testing, and then having them continue the next day. With no warning, with no explanation. This is a travesty.

McGraw Hill, on the other hand, has sanctions worked into the contract, but officials have not levied penalties at all in any of the three failures of service.

Travesty.

  • teacher

    “…this would be like a teacher taking a testing booklet from students at random during testing, and then having them continue the next day.”

    With the sporadic testing connections my district saw, it was more like repeatedly taking the test booklet away. Just imagine a teacher taking a test booklet away at random and more than once. Then, end with the complete removal of the test. What does this do to the validity of the test?

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