The Norman Transcript

April 22, 2014

More than 1,000 Norman students unable to complete standardized exams due to problems

By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — More than one thousand Norman students who were scheduled to take at least one standardized exam Monday have been delayed in exam completion.

For the second consecutive year, standardized testing was disrupted across the state due to problems with the exam vendor’s software. These glitches were so widespread that State Superintendent Janet Barresi had to suspend all online testing for the day.

“Students at all four middle schools and both high schools were disrupted from taking exams,” said Shelly Hickman, NPS public information officer. “We had exactly 1,126 students scheduled for exams. At this point, we’re still waiting for notification from the state as to when exam testing will resume.”

Standardized state testing for grades third though eighth and end-of-instruction exams for high school students must be completed within a limited time period.

Norman Public Schools had to work out a complicated schedule to fit testing within that time period, Hickman said. For instance, in one NPS middle school, the district had to schedule three days of testing to complete the state math exam in seventh-grade.

“When you have 16,000 kids, significant planning goes into scheduling these exams,” Hickman said.

Early in the testing period, Norman students experienced glitches such as frozen computer screens and being kicked out of exams, Hickman said. Similar problems with vendor CTB/McGraw Hill’s software stalled testing last year.

Yet, Barresi and the State Board of Education (SBE) recontracted with CTB/McGraw Hill for $13,539,214 million after the 2013 testing interruptions. Barresi said the state is exploring options for the remainder of the testing window, including pencil and paper assessments, the Oklahoma Education Association reported.

These online testing problems occurred even after schools complied with a stress test to prepare for the state exam period.

“Several weeks ago, we were asked — as well as other school districts across the state — to disrupt class and participate in a stress test. We simulated online testing to make sure the vendor’s software could handle the large number of test takers and to confirm that there were no malfunctions on our end,” Hickman said.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives reported that only 11,000 students of 678,000 students — less than 2 percent of those scheduled for testing — were able to test online Monday.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the system is designed to save student responses up to the point of disruption, so it may be possible for those students to successfully complete the test when the system is operational.

NPS is still waiting on word if any test takers’ exam were complete. Hickman said today the district would either have to retest students or begin to test new students, depending on notification from the state.

“Students, faculty and volunteers were ready for testing. The vendor was not,” Hickman said. “This affects student performance and isn’t acceptable.”

Katherine Parker



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