Wednesday, October 1, 2014
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By Jon Watje
Managing Editor

A computer server crash caused problems for dozens of Minco students who were taking online tests last week.

Minco Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Sims said about 80 of his students were taking end-of-instruction (EOI) tests on Monday, April 29 when they began experiencing problems.

"We started having problems on Monday, but we also had problems Tuesday," Sims said. "On Tuesday, we had about 45 eighth graders in two of our computer labs taking reading tests and when they were a quarter way through them, the server crashed. We called the State Department of Education and they said to keep the students in the computer labs or their tests would be invalidated. So, a test that should of taken an hour or an hour-and-a-half ended up taking about three hours."

Sims said he was also told that several students would have to retake their tests, including some sophomores who were taking their EOI Geometry tests.

"I think it is just plain wrong they have to retake their tests," Sims said. "Our teachers’ jobs are also evaluated by these tests. Also, these scores have an impact on the kids’ ability to get a driver’s license. I don’t think it is the State Department’s fault, but this is ridiculous."

The Oklahoma State Department of Education chose testing company CTB/McGraw-Hill as the vendor for this year’s tests.

At Union City, Superintendent Todd Carel said the server malfunction did not have any impact on his district’s test taking.

"It didn’t affect us at all because we completed all of our tests before this happened," Carel said. "We completed our tests on April 24 and it went just fine when we did it. I am sure glad we got ours in before this happened."

The server crash affected school districts all over the state.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said she was upset when she heard of the testing problems.

"This is completely unacceptable," Barresi said. "We are outraged that our school districts are not able to administer assessments in a smooth and efficient manner. This is especially disruptive for the children who have worked hard all year and now have the opportunity to let us know what they have achieve. To be interrupted during testing is a very difficult and stressful environment for our children and educators."

Sims said the same problems are being reported from other states as well.

"This isn’t just happening in Oklahoma," he said. "Districts in Indiana and New Jersey have reported the same kinds of problems."

Sims said he was so unhappy with the testing issues that he emailed Oklahoma legislators about it.

One legislator, Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Chouteau, spoke out last Wednesday regarding the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s choice to score unanswered questions as incorrect answers regarding the online testing problems.

"The interruption of the test should invalidate the test," Sherrer said. "No student should be penalized as a result of the failure of the State Department of Education or its paid contractor to properly deliver the online test."

In the meantime, Sims said he and his district will continue to do their best to give their students the best opportunity to succeed.

"We have no control whether we take these online tests or not," Sims said. "We will see if there was a discrepancy in the results from those who had problems and those who didn’t."


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