Attorney General Scott Pruitt is asking Oklahoma school superintendents for information he can use to hold CTB/McGraw-Hill financially accountable for online testing failures that disrupted end-of-instruction testing for thousands of students.
“My office is conducting an inquiry into the cause and effect, as well as potential damages resulting from the disruption,” Pruitt said in an Aug. 4 letter to superintendents. “This effort fundamentally is about ensuring accountability to the state, each school district and ultimately to the parents and children themselves.”
Joseph Siano, superintendent of Norman Public Schools, said he’s glad Pruitt has initiated the investigation and hopes he will consider expanding it to look at how standardized writing tests were scored.
“We don’t believe our writing tests were accurately scored ... and I think there are similar concerns across the state,” Siano said.
It is critical to have tests that produce accurate results if those tests are to be used to hold districts accountable and if teacher evaluations are to be tied to student performance, he said.
Brian Belardi, spokesman for CTB/McGraw-Hill, declined comment Tuesday.
On April 22, testing for about 8,100 Oklahoma students in grades six through 12 was disrupted by what the company described as a hardware malfunction, said Tricia Pemberton, spokeswoman for the state Education Department.
It was the second year in a row that students experienced disruptions while taking CTB/McGraw-Hill tests.
On April 29-30, 2013, what was described as a server capacity issue resulted in testing disruptions for about 9,100 students, Pemberton said.
After the 2013 testing failure, a settlement was reached between the company and the Education Department that required CTB/McGraw-Hill to pay the state $367,205 in cash and provide additional testing materials and services. The entire settlement was valued at more than $1.2 million.
After this year’s testing failure, the state Board of Education voted unanimously to terminate CTB/McGraw Hill’s contract.
In 2013, the state paid CTB $8.9 million for Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests, plus $7.3 million for high-stakes end-of-instruction exams that are used to determine whether high school students receive diplomas.
Siano said the Norman district was among those districts that experienced testing disruptions in both 2013 and 2014.
“It was a two-year glitch,” he said. “I think it affected about 1,000 of our students the first year.”
The numbers weren’t as great this year, but there were “quite a few,” he said.
The Education Department will assist the attorney general’s office in gathering information, Pemberton said.
In Pruitt’s letter to superintendents, he asks more than a dozen questions designed to determine exactly what when wrong, how many students experienced testing disruptions and how it impacted student performance.