Standardized testing already has a reputation as being little more than a jobs program for ed tech companies which can't actually measure how much a student is learning, so it should come as no surprise that parents, students, and even teachers are protesting the wast of resources.
Server outages this week brought a whole host of issues to light. Not only are the test poorly designed, they are also badly administered.
Multiple ed tech company have taken the paper intensive tests and moved them online. This reduced the overhead, but as we learned this week it also introduced a serious flaw.
Numerous reports are coming in this week that standardized testing had to be delayed in Colorado, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota. Apparently no one planned for the fact that all these students would be using the same limited number of servers to take their tests, nor did they have a backup plan ready for when the servers crashed under this entirely predictable workload.
The Las Vegas Sun reported this week that:
According to the Nevada Department of Education, a spike in students taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) this morning in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota exceeded the data capacity of Measured Progress, a third-party vendor contracted by the states to provide the test.
All testing in the three states has been stopped until Measured Progress can increase its data capacity, according to an email sent to state superintendents today by state deputy superintendent Steve Canavero.
Minnesota Public Radio and the Colorado Springs Gazette each reported similar problems in their states. This time around the testing was administered by Pearson, and to be fair apparently Pearson did have a plan in place to fix the problem.
Several Minnesota schools experienced problems with online statewide testing Tuesday.
A server malfunction at testing company Pearson prevented students and test administrators from logging into the system, according to state Department of Education spokesperson Josh Collins.
"Students who were already taking the test would not have likely experienced any issues — it would have prevented students from logging in to the environment this morning," Collins said.
In a memo sent to districts in Minnesota and several other states, Pearson said the problem is being fixed, and the system should be working at full capacity by Wednesday.
I can't find any follow up news reports or notices on school websites saying that the problem persisted, so I assume that Pearson did fix the problem.
And that's a good thing because the states are paying a huge chunk of your tax dollars to the ed tech companies. Minnesota, for example, is paying Pearson $38 million dollars to run the standardized tests over the next 3 years.
Ain't standardized testing grand?
Not only do students lose class time which is wasted on test prep, not only are they stressed out by the pressure, but now they're not even able to take the tests.
It's no wonder that now we even have teachers recommending that students opt out of the standardized testing, and we have students protesting the tests by posting test questions online.
Remember the story last month about Pearson spying on students on twitter, and ratting them out for talking about a standardized test question?
Apparently I'm not the only one who is unhappy about it, because students have taken to posting the test questions to Facebook as an act of protest. This has also revealed serious problems with the tests:
While many thousands of parents have opted out, some students are engaging in civil disobedience by copying test questions and releasing them. I read one long and rambling passage written in what I imagine was cowboy slang. I won’t reproduce it because I don’t want to be sued by Pearson.
Teachers are reporting readability levels that are 2-4 grade levels above students’ age/grade. They are also reporting incomprehensible reading passages. A poem on the 6th grade test baffled students and teachers alike.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ain't standardized testing grand?