Computerized School Exam Problems In Two-Thirds Of States

for further information:                                                                 

Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773

                   cell (239) 699-0468

 

for immediate release, Thursday, April 14, 2016

COMPUTERIZED SCHOOL EXAM PROBLEMS IN TWO-THIRDS OF STATES --

TEST ADMINISTRATION CRASHED IN AT LEAST 13 OVER PAST FOUR YEARS;

WIDESPREAD TECHNICAL, SECURITY PROBLEMS ADD TO  

FAILURE OF POLITICALLY MANDATED TESTING

Last week, Alaska canceled annual standardized testing after a new, computer-administered system collapsed. Texas lost nearly 15,000 student scores when the state’s automated exam malfunctioned.  Earlier this spring, Tennessee replaced its computerized assessments with pencil-and-paper after the new technology failed.

These incidents are the latest in a pattern of computerized testing troubles. According to a survey by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), two-thirds of the 50 states experienced automated testing failures in the past four years. At least 13 states cancelled tests or ignored the resulting scores after widespread system crashes or other significant disruptions.

According to FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer, “State officials rushed computerized exams into place. Their timetables were based on unrealistic expectations and vendor lobbying. They ignored the judgment of education and technology experts. Too often, the new systems were not ready for prime time.”

Among the major problems that caused widespread testing disruptions, according to FairTest:

  • A lack of sufficient, up-to-date computers, particularly in urban and rural schools;
  • Students, particularly young children from low-income families, who are unfamiliar with computers or the specific skills required to answer automated questions quickly and accurately;
  • Inadequate bandwidth to connect schools/districts to testing company servers when thousands of students log on at the same time;
  • Weak server and backup capacity, surprisingly an issue for even big testing companies; and
  • Poor security at all stages of the process, allowing hackers to disrupt testing through denial of service attacks and firewall penetration.

Schaeffer concluded, “These fiascos are the latest example of what happens when testing policy is driven by politicians and corporate interests, not parents, teachers, and assessment experts. Our students are paying the price in time lost from learning, anxiety and frustration. Computer administration problems are yet another reason why standardized exam scores should not be used to make high-stakes educational decisions.”

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STATES REPORTING COMPUTERIZED TESTING PROBLEMS 2013 - 2016

Alabama   Maryland   Rhode Island *
Alaska *   Minnesota *   South Dakota
Arkansas   Missouri   Tennessee *
California   Montana *   Texas *
Colorado *   Nebraska *   Virginia *
Connecticut   Nevada *   Washington
Florida *   New Jersey   Wisconsin *
Georgia *   New Mexico *    
Illinois   New York   Pre-2013
Indiana *   North Carolina   Oregon *
Kansas *     North Dakota *   Wyoming *
Kentucky *   Ohio    
Maine   Oklahoma *    

* at least one widespread disruption of test administration due to technology failure

 

A regularly updated chronology of computer testing problems over the past four years is online at
http://fairtest.org/computerized-testing-problems-2013-2015