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Fallout of Oklahoma school testing glitch continues

Oklahoma schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said she wasn't part of the decision-making process to hire the state's testing company, but she has stepped in to negotiate what happens from now on after the company experienced a technical glitch that affected more than 9,000 test-takers.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: May 20, 2013

The state's schools superintendent said she was not involved at all in the hiring of a testing company whose technical problems disrupted online tests for more than 9,000 students last month.

“I had zero involvement in the entire process from start to finish personally,” Janet Barresi said.

The CTB/McGraw-Hill Education online testing system faltered April 29 and 30, forcing students to wait for hours or have to give up on exams, some of which are required for graduation.

The company was hired after the state Education Department switched from another problematic testing company. McGraw was selected by Education Department staffers after a lengthy review process, Barresi said.

But Barresi said she stepped in when the testing system went down.

The punishment for McGraw hasn't been determined yet. Barresi said one option is for the company to provide teacher training and curriculum development.

One thing that is planned, Barresi said, is a study to see whether the disruption affected student scores overall.

Ambitious undertaking

McGraw spokesman Daniel Sieger said the problem wasn't so much that the computer servers crashed. It was more an issue of how the servers were configured. The team at McGraw worked during the week of the testing issues to keep the system going, and on the weekend worked through the night to do major updates.

“By the time testing came back on Monday, the system was in much better shape than when the whole thing began,” Sieger said. “Fortunately, the rest of the testing has gone well.”

Indiana's school system saw testing issues at the same time. Indiana was testing a much larger group of students, with more than 150,000 testing sessions completed before the testing server issues began that Tuesday.

“They're doing the largest, most ambitious simultaneous online testing in the country at this point,” Sieger said.

Growing pains

McGraw and state Education Department officials have been in discussions with the U.S. Department of Education about what will happen next, including whether the company will be fined, he said.

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This is brave-new-world stuff here — the world of online testing and doing all these simultaneous tests. ... We're all making mistakes, we're all learning from it, and in the end, the kids and the teachers will benefit because there's a lot of advantages to doing online testing.”

Daniel Sieger,

CTB/McGraw-Hill Education spokesman,
CTB/McGraw-Hill Education spokesman


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