That bad dream about being unable to finish test? Hundreds of Georgia students living it.

A bill in the Georgia Legislature eases the process of opting out of state tests. It also encourages policies that allow student to choose to take tests with pencil and paper rather than on computers.

UPDATE Tuesday morning and question: Can students resuming interrupted Georgia Milestones tests today due to computer problems go back and change earlier answers? Here is what one parent said:

 

Of five tests, my middle school son had two shut down in the middle and one delay for more than an hour to start. His ELA essay restarted after nearly two hours of sitting without speaking, water or restroom. That’s a great way to resume writing a complex essay. The other test is supposed to resume today so he spent this morning checking the answers he was unsure of so he can correct them. We discussed the ethics of that but since the test is so unethical in the first place, we decided it was fair. His opinion is that the whole testing process is designed to punish teachers and students and he’s right.

My question: Is there any way to prevent the students resuming interrupted testing today from correcting earlier answers? Should schools worry about this happening? The students whose testing was interrupted because of technical failures are under greater stress as a result so maybe we should cut them a break.

I shared the parent’s comment with Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the state Department of Education. He said:

It really depends on the circumstances.  Generally speaking they should continue from where they were interrupted.  The test will take them to that point. And depending on the circumstances, we sometimes allow students back in to complete the test.  This is not allowed in all circumstances – but in cases where it is clearly not the fault of the student….we do our best to err on the side of the student.

Original blog:

I am among the many adults who still have that common anxiety dream about flubbing an important exam. While I’m too old to ever have tested on a computer, my current reliance on technology has invaded my sleep. In some dreams, I’m at a computer and can’t get the test to work.

Students across Georgia are in the midst of a similar nightmare as they attempt to navigate the Georgia Milestones tests online. The transition to online testing is not going well in many places, increasing the anxiety of an already  high stress experience for students and teachers. The snafus were not limited to one county, although Fulton seemed to have the greatest issues in the metro area.

Among the comments I’ve heard from parents and teachers today:

  • We have reports of several middle schools in North Fulton struggling with the tech platform today. Students got set up in the morning only to lose their connection and then wait. And wait. Eventually the district level people called it a wash and those students will have to complete social studies tests tomorrow. Students waited, asking when they could eat lunch and their teachers could not answer until decisions were made from above. This afternoon these schools did not attempt testing with the PM testers so those students’ afternoon was a wash — movie watching or some such waste of a day of instruction.
  • My son’s school’s computers crashed on Friday during the test. They had to go back in the afternoon and sit for another hour since they would never load. We are now being told they will do it Wednesday afternoon. Their Milestones were supposed to be finished on Friday, but they still have it hanging over their heads this week.
  • My son is in the 7th grade.  They had their Milestone testing last week.  On Friday, we received a message there were technical issues and that they would have to finish their testing in the afternoon (they had been testing all morning) and to please not check out any children.  I guess after sitting and staring in a quiet room for 45 minutes, they were still unable to test.  He said they have one section left, and they will finish it today.
  • While my school has not encountered any technical issues, like most middle schools, they’ve had to break the 8th graders into four smaller testing groups in order to allow each student to have a hardwired computer.  This leaves three-fourths of the eighth grader out of the classroom without their regular teachers at any given time for two-and-a-half weeks.  It’s very difficult to plan and carry out quality instruction under these circumstances.  My guess is that the legislators and the Department of Education didn’t think this part through when mandating the Milestones be taken digitally.  Just another one of the many ways our Georgia government is academically stunting our public school students.
  • My county worked toward 100 percent online testing. However, one middle school never got online, so they were forced to order paper tests and were three days late getting started with testing. Another middle school started testing, but the entire system went down on the second day. They had students crying and upset because of the testing difficulties. Online testing at my school went much smoother than the other middle schools, but it was not without hiccups. We had several students who were kicked out of the program mid test. They were then forced to do hard resets (sometimes up to 30 or 40 attempts.)  The stress was palpable.
  • I am an English teacher. All year, I have taught my students to cite the text from which they reference directly and to put quotation marks around direct quotations. However, quotation marks were not working online and my students were quite confused. Many of them didn’t put anything at all. After testing we found out there was a way to add them that included adding a plus sign and extra spaces or something silly. My poor students were so stressed because of things like the tab button not working and quotation marks not working. It seems as though they are asking us to make our students technologically literate, but then changing the technology on the test. At the end of the day, our school has great administrators who worked to make the transition to online testing as seamless as possible, but at the end of the day technology can be a giant pain.
  • On Friday,  they administered SLO tests for algebra 2. My daughter was close to completing the test. She said it took the whole period. The wifi/Internet went down and the test she worked hard on was canceled.
  • There are many reports of tech issues across the state. I’ve also seen a number of parents post that their children’s lunches were very delayed and even school dismissals were delayed to allow testing to finish up. I’m personally aware of so many irregularities that I cannot imagine how they can consider results valid.
  • This needs to be a hold harmless year for everyone. These schools were not built for the levels of technology being required. Algebra 2 test online crashed at the very end and there is still no decision on what to do. Data Recognition Corporation is a bigger nightmare than McGraw Hill ever was.
  • In our school, the science portion died between part one and part two. Some had finished and hit the “submit” button, some, like my kid, were checking their work and suddenly it was offline. They had to go to a second day.
  • Computer issues reported for Georgia Cyber Academy/K-12 students in South Georgia. Computers quit working during the test forcing these children to have to do a make up.
  • Everyone is affected by these tests, even students in lower grades who aren’t taking them. Students are sitting in classrooms waiting for higher grades to finish the test (but can’t because the computers keep crashing). Lunch is delayed until 1:30 or 2:00, kids going without food for hours. Dismissal is delayed, recess is cancelled, and stress levels are high for everyone-including teachers. How can these tests be valid with so many having to start over? Students are threatened with punishment if they don’t score well. I no longer feel good about putting my children on the bus every day just to send them to school to be put through this.

I asked Fulton County Schools for a response and spokeswoman Susan Hale responded: (I could not get a comment from DOE as the agency is closed today for what used to be called Confederate Memorial Day but is now listed on the state  government site as “State Holiday.”)

Some of our schools did experience technical issues during the first days of testing, such as server overload, an unscheduled iPad OS software update, and an AT&T outage. The issues impacted mainly middle schools and some elementary schools who were testing majority online and wireless, and occurred as students were in the testing session or about to begin.

Prior to the testing period, schools in conjunction with our I.T. Department and Assessment Department did a thorough preflight to be sure they would be prepared, such as having all students log on to the testing main site at the same time to be sure that our wireless servers could handle the load. All preflights went very well, so it was unexpected when the servers did not respond accordingly. We continue to research the issue, but our best understanding is that the download of content from the state testing server to our local servers was heavier than anticipated. As for the IOS software update, that was an unexpected issue that did not occur during preflight and we immediately engaged representatives from Apple Inc. to resolve it. As for the AT&T outage, that was unexpected as well, and, unfortunately, is an issue that can happen anytime, anywhere in the community.

To resolve these immediate issues, our I.T. Department added file servers to increase capacity and worked with Apple to reconfigure iPads. We also asked schools to stagger their testing start times so that every student in a school does not start at the exact same time. In most situations, the technical issues have been minor, temporary frustrations that have been resolved. We have a small number of students who need to complete ELA testing (they originally were scheduled for a make-up day tomorrow) but otherwise testing is continuing on its current schedule.

We want students, parents and teachers to be assured that ample time is being given to finish any assessment that was interrupted and that the testing process remains secure. When a testing session would get ‘hung up,’ testing coordinators would make note of when the session started, when the interruption occurred, and then secured the testing environment (such as removing the mobile device/laptop). As for students whose testing was interrupted, the test’s progress automatically saved so students were able to resume the assessment where they were. Since the testing coordinator logged the start time and time of the interruption, we are able to determine the remaining administration time for taking the assessment.

 

Reader Comments 0

74 comments
Think before speaking
Think before speaking

The individuals who hint at teacher sabotage are truly grasping at straws. There are proctors in the classroom (not school employees BTW). We all want the best environment for our students during testing.  During day two of testing, over half my students' computers  froze, kicked them out of the system, or had computer keys lock up.  Eight students had to restart an average of five times.  There were a total of six "Tech" people coming in and out of the room attempting to fix the issues.  It was an utter nightmare.  I didn't want my students to become upset, so I tried to remain calm and pep-talk them through the situation, but I did have to step out at one time because I was on the verge of tears at the unfairness of the situation for these students.  I teach eighth grade and it is a GATE year for them.


Please keep the teacher sabotage babble to yourself.  

Milo
Milo

How typical for educators to feign hissy fits at every technological bump in the road. Those newfangled computer things!

Tracy Hunter Allison
Tracy Hunter Allison

AJC Get Schooled, why is this page/link no longer available for this article?

Tracy Hunter Allison
Tracy Hunter Allison

AJC Get Schooled, why is this page/link no longer available for this article?

Kathy Kaasa Taylor
Kathy Kaasa Taylor

You must use the word "refuse". There is a great group on Facebook... Opt out Georgia. Tons of great info !

Kira Willis
Kira Willis

How about the fact that Kelly Services is hiring folks at little more than minimum wage to grade the tests that our children's depend upon, and our teachers' jobs are evaluated

Laura Dex Wallace
Laura Dex Wallace

Yep, network went down yesterday. Grateful that some students were lucky enough to have old fashioned paper tests.

teachermom4
teachermom4

My 2 eighth graders didn't get lunch until after 3:00 on the first day of testing; school lets out at 4:00. My 3rd grade son didn't get to finish 3 math problems and is convinced he's going to summer school because of it. In my 5th grade classroom, I had 3 computers quit working mid-test yesterday. We don't really have the infrastructure to shuffle 600 kids through 5 days of testing each. I think there are many schools in this position. We have temporary servers to handle the traffic, but it isn't always enough. I was out of spares by the time we were done. Thank goodness nothing else went wrong. I've had it easy compared to some classes. 

gapeach101
gapeach101

@teachermom4 If I ever needed a reason to pull my child from testing, a 3:00 lunch would do it for the remainder of my child's school career. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Let's face it: It's a mess, like much of Georgia's half-hearted attempts to be "cutting edge." 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

A parent shared this comment, which raises another set of questions. 

Can students whose tests were interrupted now go back and fix wrong answers when they return to the tests today? 


Of five tests, my middle school son had two shut down in the middle and one delay for more than an hour to start. His ELA essay restarted after nearly two hours of sitting without speaking, water or restroom. That's a great way to resume writing a complex essay. The other test is supposed to resume today so he spent this morning checking the answers he was unsure of so he can correct them. We discussed the ethics of that but since the test is so unethical in the first place, we decided it was fair. His opinion is that the whole testing process is designed to punish teachers and students and he's right.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaureenDowney I would NEVER condone my child going back and changing answers, no matter how you rationalize it!  It gives your child an UNFAIR ADVANTAGE over students whose computers worked!  You are teaching THE WRONG THING!

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Wascatlady @MaureenDowney But consider this: Under normal testing conditions, students can go back and review their answers once they complete the test. 

If tests froze Monday at question 20 out of 40 and we don't allow students to access those first 20 questions, then they are denied an opportunity to review their work, an opportunity their peers without test interruptions had.

Is that fair?  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaureenDowney @Wascatlady No, you are right.  That is not.  It is the intervening 12 hours that are problematic, however.  The difference is having time outside the testing situation to review your answers.  The other kids did not get to go home and look up/think about their answers (and it is pretty remarkable that the student took the initiative to do so--kudos) and the other kids did not.  So, what is fair?


I think, however, agreeing with the justification by your child as "It's an unfair test" leads to other problems.  What about speeding laws?  Registration for service at the age of 18?


When we had to suspend CRCT testing a few years ago because we had to sit out in the hall due to a tornado warning--for almost an hour--we had to contact the state about "nonstandard administration."  You see, the kids could have TALKED ABOUT THE TEST while they were ducking and covering!  Like that is what they were thinking about!


I've related before how one little boy took his test booklet into the hall. He KNEW he would not be able to finish it unless he did.


So, so sad.  Perhaps for the  technical goof-ups they can declare them a non-standard administration.  Either that or RETEST sometime?

Amy Latimer Rice
Amy Latimer Rice

Of five tests, my middle school son had two shut down in the middle and one delay for more than an hour to start. His ELA essay restarted after nearly two hours of sitting without speaking, water or restroom. That's a great way to resume writing a complex essay. The other test is supposed to resume today so he spent this morning checking the answers he was unsure of so he can correct them. We discussed the ethics of that but since the test is so unethical in the first place, we decided it was fair. His opinion is that the whole testing process is designed to punish teachers and students and he's right. My younger children have been subjected to testing that goes on every minute school is in session from April 12 thought 27. They are trying to have kids only test on computers connected by ethernet since those connections are much more reliable than the wifi. This means the school is continually on a testing lock-down with no services provided. My children who eat breakfast together are also subjected to lunchtimes that range from 10:15 to 2:30. This is crazy. It is an incredibly negative environment and process for teachers and students. And it's all for the profit of the companies who create and score these tests and for the set-up to fail process for schools. My schools are learning nothing about my children or their teachers that they don't already know.

Astropig
Astropig

Has anybody considered the possibility that the teachers are sabotaging the process here and blaming it on the technology? ("Silly me! I poured sand in that gearbox and now the car won't move!") This has been an ongoing thing here that just perfectly coincides with a push to take testing out of teachers' evaluation regime.The whole "hold harmless this year" shuck and jive seems to be a way to buy time while political wheels spin out of the public's sight.



bev1972
bev1972

@Astropig My students often worked in the tech lab or with laptops in the classroom on webquests, Successmaker (a Pearson product that supports state objectives), research, and PBL (project based learning). Computer issues were a given with several hundred students using the tech labs and laptops. During lab days, I frequently ended up troubleshooting and sometimes moved two students to work on the same computer because a device needed repair. At times, we could not access anything online - the connection would just drop. At times, too many students were trying to access a site (not just students at my school) and part of my students could connect while others sat and waited. Again, at least I could put two students to a computer if needed. During testing at my school, there were four computer labs including the media center. Every student in the school had to cycle through those labs for testing. The media center was completely shut down during testing time - so this meant no media access during testing days. It also meant no research or learning activities could be conducted in the labs during testing. Our tech support was wonderful, but you have to understand that the tech equipment isn't equitable among schools. Some schools have to share tech personnel while others have one full-time. Superb PTSA groups provide funding for extra lab equipment while schools with low parental involvement may have older equipment. My husband thinks that using AS400 servers to host the testing might cut down on problems with students being kicked out of tests because it would require less from the local computer stations since the hard work would be done at the testing source (state mainframe). My explanation is not so great, but the point is that the current process appears to rely on hard work technically at the local level. I really hate to read these blogs and comments, but it's also important for the public to know the truth. ALL THE TEACHERS I KNOW TAKE TESTING SERIOUSLY. ALL THE SCHOOLS IN MY AREA GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO PREPARE STUDENTS AND TEST ETHICALLY. I rate your claim that "teachers are sabotaging the process" as false.

taylor48
taylor48

@Astropig Our lights went out the second day of testing.  I'm sure it was a teacher trying to sabotage the power grid.

Astropig
Astropig

@class80olddog @Wascatlady @Astropig


Look, the teachers have already,openly,tried to undermine the tests with their "opt out" campaign.Is it a great leap of logic that this is not a little more of an activist approach?



HILUX
HILUX

@Astropig @class80olddog @Wascatlady 

The "opt out" campaign is being run out of teachers' union headquarters. You can bank on that.

And this blog's constant proselytizing for it ...?

BRV
BRV

Take the tin foil hat off. It's constricting blood circulation to your brain.

What I'm hearing from my kids and my wife about testing glitches in Forsyth is consistent with what's described this article. It's a predictable combination of bandwidth issues, server strain, hardware failure and application errors. Fortunately there appear to have been fewer issues in Forsyth than in Fulton.

I've worked in IT for 25 Years and IMO our district does a pretty good job of implenting technology. But even here there isn't enough money to design and build infrastructure to support three nines service or to have enough devices for peak testing demand. there will always be application errors even with good QA and I would not be surprised if the actual testing of these applications is shoddy. The fact that systems running above capacity are having higher failure rates is as predictable as the Braves mediocre season.

As for opt out being yet another teacher lead conspiracy, all I can say is that Forsyth is not exactly crunchy granola teritory and even here there is a fair amount of dissatisfaction among parents with the amount of testing. They aren't opting out, but i know for certain that there are repeated complaints to district leaders about the issue.

I don't agree generally with your perspective but you don't strike as being dumb either. I'm surprised that you would double down on an idiotic conspiracy theory.

AVJ
AVJ

@ParentTeacher

But people ARE opting out all over the state, regardless of whether there is an official opt-out clause or not.  There's an HUGE Facebook group called Opt Out Georgia, the owner / administrator helped bring SB 355 before our legislature.  And the group is posting a map online of all the parents who are opting their kids out of testing all over the state.  It's wonderful!


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig Yeah, cause you can't trust those teachers!


And I bet half are child molesters, too!  And use drugs at school!

teachermom4
teachermom4

@Astropig No. The problem is a lack of infrastructure and equipment. I get a cart of computers wheeled in and set up. The test is administered wirelessly. Sometimes the computers lose connection mid-test. Sometimes the computers get tired and randomly shut off. We are all frustrated, teachers and students alike.

BRV
BRV

It's on the banks of de Nile River. Uber Unicorn provides fast service to and from GA Teacher Union HQ.

Bill Fisher
Bill Fisher

Or to finish editing headline..............tests or a test.........test is not plural.............Geesh - a column about education

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Bill Fisher No, test is correct in this usage. I am not referring to dreams but "that dream," the archetype stress dream of being unable to finish a test. And we often drop the articles in headlines for space. 

NGAteach
NGAteach

Bottom line -- instruction essentially ceases for two weeks for GMAS. This tail wags the dog. After GMAS, computer labs will be used for SLOs, Universal Screeners and....GMAS retakes. We are all crying!

ParentTeacher
ParentTeacher

@NGAteach 2 weeks?  My county takes 3 weeks for 3-5 testing.  Pretty much instruction stops just after spring break, 2nd week of April.  As soon as the scores come back, students who did not pass are rushed through a remediation program and retested.  Teachers lose about 7 weeks of instruction for the end of year testing as well as several weeks before testing for review.

Another comment
Another comment

The end of course exams for the GA virtual schools are limited to the 4/5 of May.

The final course work is due on Thursday. Again a couple of hours ago, my daughters work did not go through again! I had to tell her again did you check to see if you got a confirmation email. Her answer no. It is just not something kids do.

My other child is a student at Georgia state. She has had some classes that are part virtual and part on campus. She had this happen too the internet going out and getting closed out of and exam. Luckily a professor emailed her and asked her why did you only answer two questions, you are one of my best students.