It’s standardized-testing season, and problems are being reported in states across the country as millions of students sit down to take exams that may have important consequences for them and their teachers.
Every spring, states give standardized tests, and their results are used to determine whether students move on to the next grade or graduate. They are also used to evaluate how well teachers did in improving student achievement. And every spring, problems with computers, servers or the tests are raised, fueling concerns about the value of the results and whether too much importance is placed on them.
New York has been at the center of a national movement to opt out of tests — a movement started to protest the controversial use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers. In recent years, to protest the importance attached to the tests, at least 20 percent of children have refused to take New York’s standardized exams. It is not clear how many students opted out this year in New York and other states, but WSHU radio reported that nearly half of Long Island students eligible to take the tests refused the English Language Arts exam.
In Tennessee, WREG-TV reported that officials blamed testing delays on a “deliberate attack” on Questar Assessments, a company that administers the exams.
We know this has presented challenges to scheduling and morale. We again apologize to our educators and students. We will be in touch with our districts later today with further info about the testing window. 3/3— TN Dept of Education (@TNedu) April 17, 2018
The American Institutes for Research, the testing vendor for Ohio, experienced problems with its log-in system for accessing tests, and delays were reported across the state.
We ask our Ts & Ss to show up, be prepared, give their best effort. It would be nice if ODE and AIR felt that same sense of urgency. This is deeper than a test not working. This is about treating kids as emotional beings who do their best & not just as a data point.— Kevin Jakub (@KevinJakub) April 18, 2018
New York had online delays, too, with its accountability tests, which are also administered by Questar. According to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, N.Y., some students in grades three through eight could not log in while others had no choices for multiple-choice questions and some lost their computerized notes.
Superintendent Eric Byrne of the Rye City School District in New York sent a letter to families spelling out some of the problems, including some test passages. It said in part: “We feel the tests administered today contained text passages that were above the appropriate comprehension level for many students taking the tests. Furthermore, the questions about the text passages were poorly constructed, making it difficult for students to comprehend what was being asked of them.”
The New York State United Teachers union has been warning the state against moving quickly to put tests online, especially after Questar reported data breaches on some of last year’s tests. The New York State Department of Education issued a release in January saying that the breach affected a fraction of 1 percent of the test-takers. Parents and public education advocates have expressed concern that officials have not done enough to ensure student data privacy.