Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blunders with Standardized Testing and Technology


           I am a huge advocate for utilizing technology in the classroom.  I am not so much a fan of standardized testing, but for now it is pretty much what drives our curriculum whether we agree with it or not.  As I encourage teachers to be creative and not be afraid of technology, one of my reasons is that our high stakes ISTEP test is now given online for grades 3-8.  We need to prepare our students by integrating technology, which should include the creation of regular chapter and unit tests online.  The standardized test should not be the first time that our students experience online testing. 

            Well the time is finally here.  This is the week that students all around our state take the high stakes ISTEP test.  This test is supposed to measure what our students have learned this year and tell us how much growth they have made since last year.  This standardized test will eventually affect teacher evaluations and their salaries in the next few years.  It is safe to say that teachers feel the pressure to be sure all standards are taught and the students are mentally and physically ready for testing this week.

            Not only did we experience issues and frustrations just getting the test icon to function properly, but for the past two days, students have seen animated globes pop up on their test screens indicating connectivity issues that kick them out of the test.  It caused a complete stand still for the testing for the entire state.  It became so frustrating for students and teachers that the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction suspended testing by mid morning each of the first two days.  This morning, CTB/McGraw-Hill the vendor hired by the state to administer the ISTEP-Plus, posted on its website that "systems are ready to go."  The message also requested that schools decrease their daily test load by 50 percent to allow flexibility in the online system's load/memory capacity. It recommends, for example, rather than testing two grade levels at the same time, a school should make arrangements to only test one.  This totally disrupts every school’s testing schedule.  With schedule changes and multiple interruptions in the middle of thousands of tests, how can this be a valid test?  How many test questions were discussed between students, with parents, or even Googled at home? What about the added stress to students and teachers because of this major problem?  Once students have tried to take a test for two days and had to stop, do you think they now care more or less about the test?

            I have heard administrators and teachers talking about technology in a negative way due to these issues.  I have witnessed multiple comments referring to paper and pencil and how they always work!  To me, this is very frustrating.  I feel like the old door to door vacuum cleaner salesman that is raving about my product and when I go to do my demonstration it just won’t pick up any dirt at all.  It makes me look like a fool.  I hear, “See, I told you this technology doesn’t work.”  It is very disheartening.

            Why, if the system/network was not ready to carry the load of the entire state, was the online test rolled out?  The real kicker is CTB/McGraw-Hill is under a four-year, $95 million contract with the state of Indiana through June 2014. The Evansville Courier and Press reported that the contract requires McGraw-Hill to provide "uninterrupted" computer availability for two weeks prior to each testing window, as well as for the entire testing window.  That didn’t happen.  Perhaps this is the time for parents and educators to step up and capitalize on this failure and push for the elimination of standardized testing once and for all!

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