Online Testing in Georgia Disrupted by Glitches

Associate Editor

UPDATED

Technology issues have caused disruptions to Georgia statewide assessments, and the state board of education will decide on Thursday whether the tests will count for retention and promotion, a spokesman for the state’s education agency said.

Update: The Georgia Board of Education voted on Thursday to waive the statewide assessment results in decisions about promoting or retaining students in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades, because of the testing mishaps.

While the high school testing window is open until May 6, the problems in lower grades with the Georgia Milestones tests—including an inability to save responses and issues with connectivity—were sufficient that the education department has asked the state board to waive Georgia’s promotion retention rule for students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades.

“Those are the ones who could be negatively impacted” by the glitches, department of education spokesman Matt Cardoza said.

Students who do not pass reading in grades 3, 5, and 8, and reading and math in grades 5 and 8, could be recommended for retention  if they fail the test, he said. But the test results are not the only determining factors, and a placement committee comprised of the school’s principal, the student’s teacher and parent must unanimously agree before that student repeats the grade.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that complaints about connectivity issues have included slow Wi-Fi; students being unable to log in, and students losing work after being kicked off the system.

Cardoza said that on April 19 there was a statewide issue with the platform where “student responses weren’t being cached,” and the test takers couldn’t move on to another question.” Data Recognition Corp., which holds the contract for Georgia Milestones, resolved the issue, but other isolated issues arose. “Those might be a capacity issue in a district, or a variety of different things,” he said.

Today, the Georgia education department released its ratings of schools statewide, which relies partially upon last year’s test results. It’s too soon to say the extent to which this year’s testing issues will affect next year’s accountability ratings, which are based on the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index, similar to the “adequate yearly progress” measures under the No Child Left Behind law.

Cardoza said that lags in student responses to tests, and iPad connectivity were among the problems identified at different schools. While there have been problems, “we’ve had many successes with high school so far,” he said. With 180 school districts in the state being tested, it will take awhile to sort out the causes of test disruptions, which could range from software updates to other connectivity issues.

Data Recognition Corp. became the assessment provider in Georgia when the company acquired CTB from McGraw-Hill Education last year. On May 28, 2014, CTB/McGraw-Hill won the $107.8 million 5-year contract, with $25.9 million awarded for fiscal 2015 and $23.1 million for fiscal 2016.

“We received $4.5 million in free services from CTB because of issues last year,” Cardoza said. Two end-of-course assessments for fiscal 2016—Algebra I and Geometry—were developed at no cost as part of that settlement, he said.

Georgia is by no means the only state that has experienced disruptions in testing recently. A mistake by a Pearson employee in New Jersey caused a one-day delay in statewide testing, as the company’s CEO John Fallon acknowledged in an earnings call with stock analysts last week.

In addition, recent news reports detailed testing breakdowns in Tennessee and Texas as the move from paper-based to online testing continues to test the systems of technology, connectivity and testing providers themselves.

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