Friday, March 6, 2015

FL Testing: Crash and Burn

From the Florida Time-Union comes word that computer-based testing in Florida is not running smoothly.

Yesterday Duval Public Schools called off testing for the second time this week, and reports are coming in from around the state of students who are staring are at blank screens, just trying to get logged into the testing program. This was the first week of the testing window in Florida, and as more students were added to the load, the system appeared not quite up to the task.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is quoted in the article:

Unfortunately, as I expected, with the larger districts joining the testing process this morning, along with middle schools, the system imploded. Students across the district saw white, blank screens when trying to log on. Districts throughout the state are reporting the same problem. I have directed all schools to cease testing.

Meanwhile, state ed department officials are declaring the testing a success, with Education Commissioner Pam Sewart announcing that she "feels with 100 percent certainty that everything is working as it should." Vitti had a response for that:

If the commissioner believes thousands of students staring at a blank screen for 30 minutes statewide is successful, then I am afraid that we have dramatically different levels of expectations for securing a reliable and valid testing environment.

 Florida actually followed Utah out of the testing consortium, using testing materials developed for Utah's test by AIR (the same people that developed the SBA test that Utah dropped out of in the first place). Bottom line: the same people whose test is grinding to a slow crawl in Florida are the people behind the SBAC. So good luck with that.

No word yet on what effect testing gurus think the bollixed roll-out will have on test results. How focused and test-effective is a student who just waited a half hour for the next question to come up?

FWIW, we went down this road in Pennsylvania several years ago. I've always suspected that's why we're one of the few states still sticking with paper and pencil. Of course, that doesn't generate nearly as much revenue for corporations, but no matter how bad our test is, at least our students can actually take it.


  1. Isn't it something when people (like the commissioner) say they "feel" something is true in the face of concrete evidence to the contrary? More magical thinking, I guess.

  2. Peter you asked how focused and test-effective a student is after having waited a half hour for the next question to come up. My question is how focused and test-effective are students who got amped up, went to bed early, ate breakfast for once, put all their effort into the test, had the servers crash after they had started, and then had to wait two days to try again. That's what happened to the neighborhood middle school near where I live.

    Btw, the type of test this is could be another post. It's a writing test (I believe 8th grade and up have to take it on the computer). You start by reading 3 text selections that have something in common with each other and then answer a question that requires you to provide text evidence. From what I"m hearing from some of the neighborhood parents, many of the topics are not what most people would assign to the grade level they're assigned to.