Thousands of Oklahoma students took their seats in school computer labs Monday morning ready to begin state-standardized testing, but many students were not able to complete those mandated tests due to technical issues.
By mid-morning, 8,100 students had experienced disruptions as a result of a system-wide problem with testing vendor CTB/McGraw Hill’s hardware, the Oklahoma State Department of Education reports.
In southern Oklahoma, Ardmore City Schools, Davis Public Schools, Dickson Public Schools, Lone Grove Public Schools and Wilson Public Schools all reported outages during online testing causing some students to not complete tests and others to work through interruptions.
By late morning, the State Department of Education released a statement by State Superintendent Janet Barresi that reported online testing was suspended for those districts that had not begun because of testing disruptions for students in grades 6-8 and high school end-of-instruction (EOI) exams.
“It is hard to describe how frustrated and angry I am,” Barresi said during a press conference Monday afternoon. “All of our time is focused on these students for a smooth experience.” Barresi said Oklahoma school districts were prepared for online testing and the disruptions were “100 percent” the fault of testing vendor CTB/McGraw Hill.
Just a year earlier, Oklahoma schools experienced outages that disturbed testing. About 9,100 students were required to retake their tests and thousands reported significant delays and wait times between questions.
Last July, Barresi announced the department had reached a million in damages caused by testing disruptions.
At Monday's press conference, Barresi said she would hold the testing company accountable. She stated there was little time to call out for bids from testing companies following last year's situation causing the State Department of Education to stick with CTB/McGraw Hill after the company agreed to an "enormous amount of demands".
Students in grades three, four and five were not impacted by the testing issues Monday. State assessment tests for those grades are paper and pencil tests.
At Davis High School, students were scheduled to take the EOI English II exam Monday morning. Those students will have to try again in the future, said Superintendent Mike Martin.
"We had 70 students sitting, ready to take their end-of-instruction test in the computer labs," Martin said. "They sat there for about 35 minutes, some were being continually kicked out and unable to take the test.
"It is frustrating. We have a schedule and that is all backed up now." State assessment testing began on April 10. Districts have until the second week in May to finish all testing. A majority of tests are administered online, requiring districts to schedule time in school computer labs.
At Dickson Public Schools, sixth graders were called to the three computer labs for the reading test. Two of the labs experienced no trouble, while one did.
"We are going to have to do it again," Dickson Superintendent Larry Case said. "It is very frustrating. I don't think they realize that we could run out of days. It is not easy to find other times with available computer labs." Ardmore City School Assistant Superintendent Missy Storm said the district experienced issues at the high school and middle school, where test ing was administered Monday.
"It is just aggravating to put children and teachers under this pressure," Storm said. "We will now have to wait and see. We will be anxious when we have to start again." Many students were able to begin the tests before experiencing issues, Baressi said at the press conference.
One of the demands made by Baressi following last year's issues was that students progress on the tests would be saved and students could pick up where they left off, Baressi said.
At Wilson Public Schools, high school students were taking the EOI History exam when students started experience interruptions. Despite the disruptions, Wilson students were able to compete the test after delays and long wait times, said Superintendent Eric Smith.
Wilson students, on an individualized education program taking the test in a separate room on screen readers, were never able to finish testing, Smith said.
"Our biggest problem was with our IEP students testing," Smith said. "We had requested screen readers and none of the screen readers came back on. I don't know what we are going to have to do for our IEP students, if we have to call in to have those invalid or retest with pencil and paper. I don't know what they are going to have us do." By Monday evening, the State Department of Education reported school districts could continue testing today or wait until Wednesday to continue.
The department also released that Barresi would recommend to the State Board of Education not to renew the contract of CTB/McGraw-Hill for the next fiscal year.
For some local school districts, such as Plainview and Springer, Monday was not a scheduled testing day. At Lone Grove, it was a make-up test day at the high school with one student needing to be tested.
Lone Grove Superintendent Todd Garrison said the one student's test was interrupted six times before the student finished the test.