TPS Experiences Online Testing Debacle

The students and teachers of Tulsa Public Schools – along with other districts across Oklahoma – have been subjected to an online testing debacle that is “nothing short of disastrous,” according to Dr. Keith Ballard, superintendent. Since early Monday this week, online testing has been sporadic at best for middle school students, with the district forced to invalidate 460 tests. The issue is due to the crashing of servers of /McGraw-Hill, the company selected to do online testing this year by State Superintendent Janet Barresi and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Chris Johnson, assistant superintendent for school and district accountability for , said, “We are greatly concerned about the negative consequences of these testing interruptions, and there have been many. If the emotional impact on our students and teachers isn’t already enough, given several weeks of issues with online testing, then there are the very real impacts in this time of high-stakes testing. We are dependent upon these tests to be credible and meaningful. For example, high school seniors are required to successfully pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams in order to graduate. How can earning a diploma be based on highly-flawed results?”

said the /McGraw-Hill server crash has caused these impacts:

– On Monday and Tuesday, a total of 44 testing sessions were cancelled due to server problems. – 170 tests were invalidated on Monday, and 290 on Tuesday due to server crashes. All of these students will have to be rescheduled. – At Booker T. Washington High School alone, 160 students will have to be rescheduled to test. – At East Central High School, 90 students will have to be rescheduled due to cancelled testing sessions. – At McLain High School, students took over five hours to complete their testing session due to technical difficulties with servers. – Schools are required to test 95% of students. Schools that test less than 95% have their school report card grade reduced by one letter grade. With the number of invalidations that have been required and sessions that have been cancelled, schools are concerned they will not be able to test 95% of students within the state testing window. – The interruptions and changes to the online testing environment due to server problems may have a significant effect on the validity of student test scores. – Some students at the high school level are dependent on the results of these tests to meet graduation requirements in order to receive their diploma in the coming weeks.

“This has been a debacle from the very beginning,” said Ballard. “The validity of these tests is highly questionable. I don’t see how in good conscience we can move forward with test results that are dubious at best. and McGraw-Hill’s actions are irresponsible. The late vendor selection, time frame and severe deployment issues have made this the most difficult testing season I have ever experienced. We use test scores in many important ways – to make staffing decisions, change instructional design, and for accountability. Quite frankly, I doubt this is a recoverable event, given all of the things that are contingent upon having valid measures. ”

Updated 05-02-2013

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