NORMAN — State Department of Education staff and testing company CTB/McGraw-Hill are scrambling to remedy a server crash that has disrupted end-of-the-year online testing for thousands of middle to high schoolers across the state.
Some students from sixth grade to 12th grade were kicked off the online test while attempting to complete Oklahoma Core Curriculum or End of Instruction tests respectively, leaving the state to determine an immediate solution in the coming days.
“The system was evaluated last night after problems occurred Monday morning and we expected the problem to be fixed. We haven’t reached a firm conclusion yet and are talking to superintendents and state department staff to see what options are an accommodation,” said SDE Communications Director Sherry Fair.
The department’s deadline for testing is Friday, and Fair said extending the deadline to accommodate the setback will be a given.
“Schools in Indiana have been experiencing the same problems today, and a different test vendor had the same glitch last week, but this is something we have to have conversations about,” Fair said.
Norman Superintendent Joe Siano said nearly 500 Norman Public School students were affected, and the district is waiting for a decision from the state on how to proceed.
“Hopefully most of our students were able to get back on the server and complete their tests, but we’ll have to wait and see about expanded windows,” Siano said. “Obviously this is a challenging time already, and technical breakdowns make it even more stressful.”
An additional major concern for Siano is how the disruption may negatively affect scores, which factor into schools’ grades on the A-F system and teachers’ evaluations.
“To me, validity is an unanswered question. We can’t speculate what would have happened without this disruption, but we have to consider that, moving into all these assessments, we were held accountable for strict procedure guidelines and now they’ve gone out the window,” Siano said. “We have to put ourselves in the position of a sixth-grader. If the test crashes it reopens to Question 1, and I certainly have concerns about students’ frustration affecting their assessment.”
State Superintendent Janet Barresi stated in a press release that she was “outraged” and called the situation “completely unacceptable.” Oklahoma is currently in its first year of a possible five-year, $16 million contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill for testing services.
“The children are priority No. 1 and this is not a good environment for their testing, nor is it good for their teachers,” Fair said. “We’ll likely have discussions about other testing companies and take this into account when looking at renewing the contract.”