Given computer glitches, will Milestones count? No and maybe.

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.

I know some readers became weary of all my reporting this week on the computer glitches surrounding the online administration of the Georgia Milestones. But when you attach high-stakes to the Georgia Milestones — retention in middle and elementary schools, 20 percent of high school grades and teacher/school ratings — you must get it right. You cannot saddle students with the additional stress of failing technology when they take critical tests.

While the state Department of Education cited more problems during the inaugural roll-out of the Milestones last year, parent and teachers reported multiple delays, students forced to restart tests five to 10  times and retests extending days.

I talked to several teachers who told me this round of testing was the most stressful in their careers because both parents and students were upset over all the retakes and the inability to resolve the computer problems quickly. And the IT people in affected systems apparently aged a decade trying to fix the issues.

(See Fulton teacher’s account of the experience.)

Those complaints — coming in the greatest number from Fulton, the state’s fourth largest system —  have caused DOE to take action, as MyAJC.com’s Marlon A. Walker reported Friday.

I have a few more details to add to that report after communicating with DOE spokesman Matt Cardoza Saturday. (Thanks to Matt for responding to weekend emails.)

He told me:

We will be asking the state Board of Education to waive the promotion retention for three through eight. It’s too early to make that decision on end-of-course tests because they just started this week and there have not been the same issues with technology we saw with the end-of-grade tests.

Pending the approval of the Educator Effectiveness Committee, made up of multiple state education agencies including DOE, Cardoza said:

“Growth will not count this year as far as TKES/LKES and will not count next year with the revised evaluation system. All that is being reported to Professional Standards Commission is based on teachers/leaders that rate an ineffective or needs development on TAPS/LAPS (observation piece) this year and it should remain the same for the 2016-17 school year. So to answer your question, anything to do with the growth area should certainly be held harmless for next year, pending approval of the Educator Effectiveness Committee.”

Some IT obstacles fell outside the control of the schools or the state. The U.S. History Milestones at Grady High School in Atlanta was delayed last week when the “IT network service provider experienced an outage that impacted all of their customers in the southeastern part of the country,” according to a note sent to parents by the principal.

How are the end of course tests going in Georgia high schools?

Reader Comments 0

52 comments
Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

The fault lies with the people who decided to test on computers.   This was predictable.  Sort of upgrading computer technology in every school across the state, the mess will keep happening.


Some consultant must have convinced the powers that using online testing would save money.  Ho Ho Ho!

ANyTime
ANyTime

I agree with several who have said that this leads to inconsistent processes for the children. Two years now where the tests "don't matter". Of course the schools will still use the data, but to what extent. When teachers are expected to teach the state standards, they do, the assessment is given, and then they are told oh we are not going to use that test...even when there were no issues in many schools/districts?...this is inconceivable. Please, let's think about what is happening as a result of some districts/schools having issues. Districts were planning toward summer schools/extended year, etc...a whole other topic altogether as to how testing can be used. Nonetheless, Georgia needs to get it right. Many states larger than georgia have been doing their state tests online for years. It seems in such a "tech savvy" state we'd at least get this right. My thought is that they are still not prepared for the quick turnaround they promised and are using this as their scapegoat. Just goes to show that merit pay, pay for performance, etc. should not even be a blip on the radar in Georgia. Teachers are actually doing their jobs given the current circumstances and pressures believe it or not.

Warrior for Education
Warrior for Education

Due to all of the technical difficulties with testing and loss of additional instructional days, why isn't the DOE adding back more instructional days prior to administering the EOC's?  These tests not only count for 20% of the students final grade in the course, but also in their High School GPA's.  My son is at Crabapple Middle School and some 8th graders were still finishing up the Milestones Testing today and not all have completed it.  EOC testing starts on Wednesday and these kids NEED their instructional time with their teachers.  Up until this point, they have been reviewing for Milestones.  These accelerated students are taking High School level courses and deserve and NEED the time to prepare appropriately.  PLEASE postpone the EOC Testing dates due to all of the lost instructional time due to the issues with Milestones!  Our students and teachers deserve it!

Tnc777
Tnc777

Here is another example of inconsistencies students cannot depend on the system to keep their word.   That is why when you tell them something they don't listen.  The rules keep changing, they can't depend on your word which causes irresponsibility.  Children look for consistencies once they see that they know they have no choice but to fall in line.  If the rules keep changing they tune out.  They must be held accountable.  


Tnc777
Tnc777

Here is another example of inconsistencies students cannot depend on the system to keep their word.   That is why when you tell them something they don't listen.  Because someone is always changing the rules and that causes irresponsibility.  Children look for consistencies once they see that they know they have no choice but to fall in line.  If the rules keep changing they tune out.  They must be held accountable.

Chiweenie4me
Chiweenie4me

Another issue - my son's school shares an auditorium with a middle school. Someone at the middle school pulled the fire alarm right in the middle of HS testing. The HS students in the auditorium were told to keep going. Kind of hard to block out a fire alarm.


Per my son, the take on the part of the students is that this whole thing is a joke that (unfortunately) will have a major impact on their grades.


If the state can't manage the technical side, why not go back to pencil and paper and fill in the bubble tests?

ChrisLQ
ChrisLQ moderator

@Chiweenie4me Hi, I am the education editor and a reporter is looking for parents to talk to about their experiences. Would you be willing? email cquinn@ajc.com


Chiweenie4me
Chiweenie4me

Another glitch - the online calculator for math tests. My 9th grader is the the advanced/accelerated math class and is proficient in the content being tested.


The problem is the online calculator students had to use was slow and prone to freezing up. And there wasn't a thing anyone could do about it other than wait for it to unfreeze. He finished the test, but barely. 


If high stakes tests like the SAT allow test takers to bring an approved calculator, then why is the Milestone relying on an online version? 

class80olddog
class80olddog

If there is anyone here that believes that a Milestone test would ever or will ever cause a student to be retained, I have a bridge I want to sell you.  Social Promotion is WAY too engrained in the system to go away.  We will continue to have 11th graders reading at 4th grade levels.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@class80olddog  Thank goodness we don't make promotion and retention decisions based on one day of 180!  The decision is based on the preponderance of evidence. We look at reading levels and math fluency and proficiency. We look at attendance records.  We look at birthdates - especially on boys. You would prefer I make the decision to retain a child based on a test taken on one day?  A test that shut-down in the middle and the kid had to start over?  A test taken on the day his dog died?  A test that has no evidence of being reliable and valid? Really?  And before you say it...yes, some children are retained.  Decisions about retention and promotion are difficult and usually involve many hours of discussion among teachers, administrators, and parents.    You need to read some research about the effectiveness of multiple retentions on the academic success of K-12 students and decide how you would weigh the outcomes. 

Jimerson (2001) summarized the historical research and added a carefully culled set of studies conducted between 1990 and 1999, all of which included comparison groups of promoted students. Most of the comparisons showed no significant differences between promoted and retained students on measures of achievement or personal and social adjustment. In those studies that did show a difference, the results favored the promoted students, especially on measures of achievement.

  Roderick and Nagaoka (2005) studied the effects of the Chicago Public Schools policy that bases promotion in grades 3, 6, and 8 on standardized test scores. Using comparison groups of students who just missed the promotion cutoff, these researchers found that 3rd graders struggled during the repeated year, had higher rates of special education placement, and two years later showed no advantage over those who had been promoted. Retained 6th graders had lower achievement growth than similar students who were not retained.  

  Studies with the strongest research methods compare students who were retained with similar students who were not retained. They ask whether repeating a grade makes a difference in achievement as well as personal and social adjustment over the short run and the long run. Although individual studies can be cited to support any conclusion, overall the preponderance of evidence argues that students who repeat a grade are no better off, and are sometimes worse off, than if they had been promoted with their classmates.



Aunt T
Aunt T

As an Educator who deals daily with large scale systems and with a niece attending one of the schools, I have a question that perhaps Maureen can answer. Was a full scale beta of this system done either in a prior year where results did not count or under a dummy scenario earlier this year? If not, what is the rationale behind that? Now you basically have a planned launch serving as an unintended beta test?  I/m assuming the rapidly aging IT folks at the district or school level are already screaming about that, as well they should.

GregoryM
GregoryM

@Aunt T Great point. Something I always worried about before I retired. Know a fair amount about testing and trying out a test for the first time in a wide-scale application is a recipe for disaster. Apart from the logistical nightmare, there is no way these tests are valid and reliable. Common testing sense.

bu22
bu22

@Aunt T They had a test in January of last year before they did the first test last Spring.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@xxxzzz @Aunt T Which was a big FAIL, so they apparently did not fix the problems, and again, this spring, another FAIL.  At least their fallibility is consistent.

ChrisLQ
ChrisLQ moderator

@Aunt T the test was administered last year and the results were not counted because the Dpt of Ed wanted to give it a run to work the bugs out.


Legong
Legong

Judging by the sheer number of Get Schooled articles attacking tests, their administration and use in evaluating teachers or schools—are parents wrong to assume there are still those in the education establishment hoping to dodge needed reforms?

MD3
MD3

@Legong People are finally wising up to the fact that testing, testing, and testing again is not a "needed reform" and that it serves no purpose. You need some new talking points, because your shtick has been really tired for a long time now...

Dunstann
Dunstann

@Legong 

Reform-minded parents will make themselves heard by enacting the Opportunity School District in November. But between now and then, this blog and its tiny Greek chorus of fellow union activists will continue to rage against the light.

bu22
bu22

@Legong Last year the problems were largely on the state.  This year it seems like the problems are on the local schools.  If the local schools can't competently administer a test, you have to wonder what else they are incompetent at.

Numacs
Numacs

@Legong Yes, Legong, parents would be wrong to assume such a notion.  Rather, parents should be justifiably thrilled to know that there are still those in the "education establishment" who want to do what is right and best for their children -- both in the short term and the long run.  Maybe you and your ilk -- with your ominous sounding aspersions -- should stop attacking teachers.  

gapeach101
gapeach101

@xxxzzz @Legong The state decided testing would be done on computers.  Did the state supply the computers?  Did the state supply tech support?  Other than make the declaration did the state do anything?

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@xxxzzz @Legong  Many of the technology problems were on the DRC end.  Students would get messages in the middle of the test telling them they couldn't continue until their answers were uploaded.  They could wait 15 minutes or 45 minutes until the bottleneck was cleared up.  DRC's server was overloaded.  Kind of difficult to blame that one on teachers. 

ChrisLQ
ChrisLQ moderator

Hi, Beth. I am the education editor. A reporter here is looking for parents who can talk about their children's experience. Would you be willing? email cquinn@ajc.com


MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

I received an email today from someone who said one county that experienced no serious computer issues did so by forbidding any student computer use anywhere in the district during testing. If students were testing, no other students could be on computers.

Is that the secret to administering the Milestones? 

And does that interfere with learning if high school kids can't go online in any of their classes because the middle school is testing?

The_Duke
The_Duke

That's not what I did at my district. I didn't have to place any restrictions on technology use at any of our schools. Maybe some of these problematic districts should think about doing more for their technology backbone so that their infrastructure can handle the work load. The state has been giving out grants for the last few years for districts to do just that.

2013SummitTeam
2013SummitTeam

@ajc Georgia's education reform is a miserable failure in all aspects. Hopefully this will aid in the demise of standardized testing.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@xxxzzz @2013SummitTeam @ajc Or aid in the demise of people making laws with no idea what or why they are requiring these things, and not asking questions about the technology infrastructure.

Lisa Joaquin Floyd
Lisa Joaquin Floyd

Thank you, Maureen, for reporting information. The public needs to be aware of this!

TMoh001
TMoh001

Thanks for the information. I teach in a large system on East Georgia. It was a circus this week. There has to be a better way to do this in the future. 

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

I'm not weary, Maureen! Please keep posting these. They matter a great deal. I'm hoping that the GADOE will not get away with blaming all of the validity problems with this test on technology. There is so much more wrong here.

KYuhas
KYuhas

Thanks for sharing this aspect of testing. People need to know what's actually happening in the schools. Great job!

Another comment
Another comment

Now you have Buckhead south without power since the 6:00 P.M. Storms. It takes weeks to get the cable and internet back on in these areas, Where they not only have E. Rivers, on Peachtree Battle, Sara Smith over off Weica,. Their is major storm damage that will effect the IT of schools in recidential neighborhoods in Atlanta and Dekalb.

Dana Smith
Dana Smith

Read this article to the end, especially about high school EOC's. \U0001f633\U0001f633\U0001f633

Mindy Thornton Pearce
Mindy Thornton Pearce

We will find out what happens by Tues at noon to see if the Governor has listened to over 53,000 educators, parents, teacher organizations and communities! !!

yazzybaby77
yazzybaby77

@ajc Keyboards weren't working, computers shutting off and erasing tests already taken making it look like that portion was never taken

The_Duke
The_Duke

How is this the state's fault? If keyboard aren't working and computers are shutting off in the middle of the test, then that's on that systems IT dept. If the IT dept set their testing system up like they were supposed to, the test would come up right where the student left off. I run an IT dept for a local school system and we only had an issue with one test session, and that was not our fault or the state's fault. We just had to adjust how many students could test at the same time during that session. The only districts that I heard about that had other issues was because their own technology infrastructure is not up to par.

yazzybaby77
yazzybaby77

@ajc There were issues in Marietta City Schools too. i.e. Park Street Elementary and Marietta High School

whoknowz
whoknowz

What is the Education Effectiveness Committee, when did we get one, and what does it do?

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@whoknowz I believe that came out of Race to the Top. It appears in the state's application for the grant. But am double checking with DOE. Earlier, Georgia had an Education Coordinating Committee, which was also made up of education-related state agencies. 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@whoknowz Here is the first citation about this committee from Georgia's Race to the Top grant application:


The area of Great Teachers and Leaders will be co-led by the Office of Education Support and Improvement within GaDOE (OESI) and by GOSA. Since this area comprises multiple plans and activities which fall appropriately into the responsibilities of various State agencies and other partners, there will also be a standing cross-functional committee—the Educator Effectiveness Committee (EEC)—to facilitate coordination and communication across agencies and partners. The EEC will be comprised of the leaders of the various agencies/divisions responsible for carrying out discrete activities that are part of the larger reform plan. See Appendix A25: Oversight Structure for Educator Effectiveness. For example, OESI will lead the development and validation of evaluation instruments for teachers and principals; GOSA will manage the vendor who will develop the State’s Value-Added Model, and lead the creating and testing of new quantitative instruments (such as surveys); the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) will implement proposed policy changes relative to certification requirements and improvements in educator preparation programs and will continue to monitor these areas; the University System of Georgia (USG) will lead the effort to enhance educator preparation programs; and GOSA will monitor and evaluate all LEA pilots and programs related to educator effectiveness. An LEA Critical Feedback group (comprised of participating LEA superintendents or designees) will provide consultation and assistance for work related to developing, designing, and testing the new teacher and leader evaluation system within participating LEAs. A Technical Advisory committee (TAC)—a panel of measurement experts—will provide guidance and expertise on measurements of teacher effectiveness.



https://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase2-applications/georgia.pdf

John Palmer
John Palmer

And people wonder why teachers and administrators are opposed to attaching evaluations and pay to these test scores! They have had two years to get it right and failed both times. There is no trust between teachers/administrators and the DOE, and certainly none between teachers/administrators and the Governor's Office of Student Achievement.

Sherry Taylor
Sherry Taylor

One of the reasons I'm leaving the classroom after 45 years...

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

GOSA=Governor's Office of Screwing All

dg417s
dg417s

@Wascatlady Just a thought - GADOE is defined by the state constitution, GOSA isn't. Why do we need to duplicate things?