It’s spring—the season of warm days, blooming flowers, budding trees…and state tests.
In many states, however, this testing season has felt more like a cold and damp winter. Delays, cancellations, and other well-documented testing mishaps have soured the mood of parents and educators, and provided much fodder for critics of state tests.
Alaska cancelled its tests outright after its testing platform collapsed. Kansas, which used the same assessment provider as Alaska, had multiple testing delays after experiencing similar technical issues. Problems in Texas, Nevada, and New York have also been reported. The Indiana legislature recently scrapped its controversial ISTEP tests after several snafus. Last year, testing problems plagued officials in Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, and other states.
Perhaps the most well-known testing flop in 2016 occurred in Tennessee. The state’s not-so-aptly named TNReady test turned out not to be ready at all after a series of technical failures caused the state to order schools to abruptly stop the computer-based version and switch to the paper-based version, resulting in widespread cancellations and delays, not to mention a complete loss of faith in TNReady’s results. Parents, teachers, and district officials are urging the Education Commissioner and the Governor to cancel part two of the TNReady exams and start fresh next year, or at least exclude this year’s tests from being used for teacher, district, and school accountability.
In most instances when testing problems occur, state department of education officials simply instruct all schools and districts to stop testing and shift to a normal instructional day. After the TNReady testing platform imploded in Tennessee, the Commissioner of Education emailed district directors with the following instruction:
“At this time, we are advising that schools experiencing problems with the test discontinue testing, and return to their normal classes. Please do not begin any new additional testing you had planned for today until the department provides further information.”
“Return to their normal classes.” That makes sense. After all, the normal daily routine for traditional schools is basically the same: students get on buses, go to their assigned schools, and report to their classrooms, whether for instruction or state testing.
Not so for online public schools. There is absolutely nothing normal or routine when online schools students take state tests. In fact, I bet most people have no idea what online schools must do to fulfil the state-mandated testing requirements.