INDIANAPOLIS — School districts across several states are rescheduling high-stakes tests that judge student proficiency and even determine teachers’ pay because of technical problems involving the test administrators’ computer systems.
Thousands of students in Indiana, Oklahoma and Minnesota have been kicked offline multiple times while taking tests in recent weeks, postponing the testing schools have planned for months and raising concerns about whether the glitches will affect their scores.
“There’s been pep rallies and spirit weeks all getting ready for this. It’s like showing up for the big game and then the basketball is deflated,” said Jason Zook, a fifth-grade teacher at Brown Intermediate Center in South Bend, Ind.
Many frustrated students have been reduced to tears and administrators are boiling over, calling the problems “disastrous” and “unacceptable” at a time when test results count so heavily toward how schools are rated under the federal No Child Left Behind Law. In places such as Indiana, where former Gov. Mitch Daniels approved changes tying teachers’ merit pay to student test scores, the pressure is even greater.
“Teachers are extremely frustrated because of the high-stakes nature of this test,” said Jeff Sherrill, principal at Emmons Elementary School in Mishawaka, Ind. “They know they’re going to be judged on this and their schools are going to be judged on this. Certainly it’s changed the outcome of the testing, because there’s no way it’s not going to.”
CTB/McGraw-Hill is the contractor in Indiana and Oklahoma and administers statewide standardized tests in eight other states. American Institutes for Research, or AIR, is the contractor in Minnesota.
In Indiana, McGraw-Hill is in the third year of a four-year, $95 million contract, while in Oklahoma, it has a one-year, $16 million contract with an option to renew an additional four years. Minnesota’s $61 million, three-year contract with AIR expires this year.
Indiana suspended testing Monday and Tuesday, the same days Oklahoma reported problems.
One Oklahoma lawmaker called for a moratorium on testing this year, saying it would be unfair to subject students to testing after “a ton of problems” have been reported.