Fulton teacher on Milestones computer meltdown: Declare scores invalid

So why do some teachers believe Georgia Milestones tests scores should not count this year in light of the widespread computer glitches?

(You can go here to see latest statement from Department of Education on what it plans to do about scores.)

In this piece, a Fulton County teacher details the stresses on students as a result of repeated technology failures during testing:

Where do I begin?

Before Spring Break, we had mandated training for the Georgia Milestones. As usual, we were bombarded with all the rules and structure and given a testing schedule for the school. Due to efforts to test the majority of students online, the schedule was complicated and a little confusing (two testing groups per grade level, testing every other day flip-flopping morning one day/afternoon the next), but every one dealt with it professionally. Questions about technology were asked and answered. Concerns about the internet were raised because there are times during the school year when access slows to a crawl or unreliable. We were told the new wiring that was recently installed and other upgrades downtown “should” handle the increased traffic…but…just in case, faculty and staff were directed to turn off Wi-Fi on our phones/devices, our classroom computers, and instruct students to turn off theirs.

My group was assigned one of the school’s iPad carts for Milestones testing. During testing, all technology is dedicated to the task, so classes not engaged in testing have no access to technology as every lab, iPad cart, media center etc. are booked for Milestones, SLOs and End of Course basically from our return from Spring Break until the last week of school. So the iPad cart was all mine.  Fun times. Little did I know…?

Day 1. The kids’ as well as my personal hell began. The iPads kept shooting error messages and not allowing kids to connect to the server before we even started ELA section 1. We lost 45 minutes just dealing with this false start. Once the class finally got going, I was running nonstop trying to keep up with all the kids going offline/server issues, recording how much time was lost, swapping out devices and continuing to notify administration. Easily one-third to one-half of my class was affected at different points in the session. The tech specialist was running ragged going between the other iPad rooms, calling downtown numerous times and doing everything in their power to fix things. Into the second ELA section, batteries start dying as the external keyboards draw so much juice.

By now I have the tech specialist and an assistant principal in the room trying to help me help the kids. How is this level of activity not distracting to those students who were actually online taking the test? By the time we finished that first day, my kids had missed their scheduled lunchtime, afternoon testers were stressing and relocated, I was nearly in tears, and the students were exhausted. My class was sent to eat, and my administration acknowledged I/we did the best we could under the circumstances and that it wasn’t our fault. I’m told other schools went through the same thing.

Day 2-4:  Testing went slightly better for my kids. We were moved to a different location on Day 2 but still with the same iPad cart. Other teachers’ room assignments or testing times changed, too. While there were fewer kids affected, it was by no means issue-free. Connectivity problems and short battery life were still constants, just not as widespread because there were fewer kids on iPads.

I’m not sure who decided to get my group some laptops and utilize the classroom computers, but that helped. Throughout this, I contacted my administration every time students received transmittal or other error messages. I’m pretty sure they were sick of hearing from me because I was definitely sick of reporting problems.

Day 5: Things were going reasonably smoothly until we were about to begin Section 2 of Social Studies. As I’m reading the scripted directions, hands go up and kids start shouting out that they’re offline. We’ve just tested on Section 1 for about 70 minutes and now the Wi-Fi goes out? Even the kids can’t believe we’re having yet another issue. Basically, we’re put in a holding pattern. An hour or so later the first queries about lunch begin. I ask an administrator but no answer is given. I get permission to charge iPads knowing if we do test, they’ll be dead otherwise. More time goes by. I ask again for an update and about lunch. No idea. The clock keeps ticking away.

Everyone is so bored…my idea to play hangman and trivia games has grown old. I ask a fourth time about lunch and am told we’re waiting for an answer from the testing office. I make the executive decision to let kids who have their lunch eat but ask them to please consider sharing with those who have to buy. I’m eventually told to collect materials (because we won’t be able to take Section 2) and send everyone to the cafeteria. Two and a half hours of our lives gone that none of us will get back.

Day 6: We were moved to a computer lab (previously unavailable as other classes were testing) and other than it being too hot in there, we finish Social Studies Section 2 without one tech issue. At last.

In all of this, I have several take-aways:

My tech specialist and administration tried hard to be proactive, flexible and supportive but they, like everyone else, were set up to fail.

Test scores must be declared invalid. Though my kids didn’t seem to lose any work completed, no one could sustain concentration. All the swapping out of equipment alone is an issue, but what about starting and restarting questions and then trying to formulate answers? It’s ridiculous. Kids’ promotion, retention, and possible summer school attendance (as well as class placements) should not be based on these results.

I don’t want 50 percent (or 30%, if the law passes) of my evaluation to come from test results — even if the kids had ideal testing conditions — but after this? It is completely wrong. Truly unethical.

Please note: These were the issues I dealt with. I didn’t even write about the issues other grade levels or teachers within my grade level had. There were plenty of stories like mine within my building, and I know it was not just at my school.

Reader Comments 1

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No one took into account that from middle school on up ( probably second or third grade) every child has their own smart phone running, either in their pocket, purse, backpack or locker. They never turn them off. Ask any parent who sets up a monitor on their phone and they can see it has data and text usage throughout the day. You are talking about another 2,000 to 3000 data points on the wifi network at the average high school. I can guarantee that those aren't accounted for in the router design and configuration.

Parents were posting on this what was happening, so we can infer that kids were texting home about missing lunch.

Kevin Wiseman
Kevin Wiseman

It seems to be nation wide.US now 30th in the world in education.

Cheryl Mowry Owen
Cheryl Mowry Owen

There's no doubt these test scores are invalid, and the fact that this process is 50% of a teachers evaluation is ridiculous!

Barry Pendry
Barry Pendry

My wife is a former teacher...I’m glad she was able to retire and get out of this mess here in Georgia.

Barry Pendry
Barry Pendry

Our education system in Georgia has gone to hell....I’m sure most teacher have been teaching nothing but prepping for this test since the first of the year...and now it’s all just worthless garbage.

Michele Bowman
Michele Bowman

Our third-graders at Mary Lin elementary school, an Atlanta Public School, took the GA Milestones test entirely on paper. 

The results for those tests should not be declared invalid because Fulton county had technical issues with their tests taken on a computer.
We don't need to throw all the babies out with the bath water.

eulb
eulb

@Wascatlady @Michele Bowman  Did any other schools take the paper version, too?

I'd like to see a comparison between the schools that used paper and the schools that were required to use computers, ipads, wi-fi, etc.  I'm NOT talking about comparing the racial & socioeconomic populations in the schools.  I'm talking about answering this question:  Do students in a pencil-paper environment score better than their matching counterparts in the techno testing environment?  If there's a way to break down the data from both locations to show an apples to apples comparison (similar socioeconomic strata students in schools that differed mainly in their use of technology).  


I have a hunch (but only a hunch) that, even if the computers and ipads ran perfectly with no glitches or delays, the pencil-paper students would outscore their computer-tested counterparts simply because the pencil-paper students would be using their customary classroom tools to show what they have learned.

Just my hunch.

jerryeads
jerryeads

@eulb @Wascatlady @Michele Bowman Some research has shown that kids generally do worse on the computer testing. No matter what kind of bubble testing, though, many kids' capacities are underestimated by bubble-testing. The inaccuracies in computer testing seem to be different from the inaccuracies of paper testing.

eulb
eulb

@jerryeads That's interesting. I'd like to read the research comparing computer testing vs paper testing.  Do you have a source handy? 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Well, for Milestones testing results for the state DOE and the state of Georgia,the results are in:  The adults in charge of this mess did NOT meet criteria for passing, and will NOT be allowed to proceed to the next grade level (i.e., continue to have their jobs)  An epic FAIL on the part of the adults "in charge."  And anyone who IS kept on staff loses 50% of their pay for next year, with an action plan in place, frequent monitoring of their work, and likely dismissal if anything is found to be substandard.


Sauce for the goose, etc.

Starik
Starik

@Wascatlady I'd like to see Common Core. There are good people in education - up North and out West.

fultonschoolsparent
fultonschoolsparent

I have friends in a lot of Fulton buildings and this is EXACTLY what went on.  In some cases it was even worse.  It was a recipe for disaster from the state before it even started.  Parents should be storming the state department, not blaming teachers (again!).  Bravo to this teacher for having the guts to tell it like it was!

ChrisLQ
ChrisLQ moderator

@fultonschoolsparent Hi. One of the AJC reporters is writing on the state Bd of Ed decision to void some results today. He would love to talk to some parents. Would you be willing to tell him your experience? email cquinn@ajc.com


Falcaints
Falcaints

Some are under the impression that schools operate with resources to just fix problems as they occur.  My district has a few full time technology workers who split time between schools.  If a problem arises, you fill out an online form and wait.  Simply submitting a request does not guarantee a repair.

jerryeads
jerryeads

So what are the test results valid FOR? Hardly anyone, and certainly not the testing crew downtown, have any remote clue what that term means. Oh, wait, the test results are valid for keeping the public duped into thinking the tests are somehow meaningful.

How ARE they meaningful? 

Do independent data show any improvement in schooling? Apparently not - NAEP scores have been flat for decades (okay, the averages bounce up a tiny bit and downtown crows about it - but then we're mighty quiet when they slide back down again. We call that 'random bounce.')

Do the results help parents or teachers help kids? Apparently not - results, whether from the validity destroying technology burps of computer testing OR from paper and pencil bubble tests, don't mosey back to the schools until LONG after the kids are gone for the year. The folks downtown crow about how wonderful the remixed results are for the NEXT year's teacher - but after the many months in between testing and results, we might as well be throwing darts blindfolded.

Do the results help kids? See above. 

You want testing to help parents, schools, teachers and kids? Take all that totally wasted funding and put it into helping teachers get better with assessment. Good teachers are "testing" every second of every day. That means everything from noticing the blank stare from Suzie that means the teacher needs to try something different to help her to the performance in the classroom to the periodic actual paper and pencil test. After 180 days of constant contact, that teacher knows FAR more about a kid than some low-bid badly made 50-minute bubble test can tell you. 

Again: Weighing the pig doesn't make it fatter. FEEDING it does. And doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over again while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. 

proudparent01
proudparent01

The teacher said she had technology issues throughout the year. Why is it only during testing that you make such public complaints. Isn't instruction and using technology for instruction important also. If your instruction was affected during the year, shouldn't you ask for your evaluation be adjusted to reflect the fact that you couldn't implement the curriculum properly? I don't understand why people only get upset during testing. 

southerntchr
southerntchr

@Milo @proudparent01 This teacher is standing up for the kids and what they had to go through.  She wasn't complaining about HER not getting lunch.  It was the kids.  Thank God there are teachers out there like this who will stand up instead of those who constantly berate educators.  We do complain about technology during the year, but we have plans B,C, and D lined up when technology goes down.  We keep rolling.  Maybe the state and all those who constantly throw shade on here toward educators could actually walk into a school and shadow a teacher or student a couple of days.  If you don't want to hear the complaints, go get on a blog about something else!

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Wascatlady @proudparent01 Of course no one else in the world deals with technology issues.  Just the eduacracy. 


Oh what?  You mean...everyone else does as well?  But just figures out how to overcome it, since the value technology delivers is so important?  And doesn't whine - but just makes it work?


Wow...being a teacher (if you are wascat) is so hard.  


Meanwhile, the truly good/great teachers deliver for their students year after year.   And the Wascatladyfans whine year after year.p

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@proudparent01 I assure you, teachers complain all year long when tech does not work.  However, if you complain as many times as it happens, you no longer have a job because you are not a "team player" i.e. "yes" man.

Dunstann
Dunstann

Other than death and taxes, few things in life are more predictable than this blog’s opposition to testing and teacher accountability.

The AJC could do with an alternative voice.

AJCkrtk
AJCkrtk

@Dunstann the other predictable thing is technology problems at schools.  

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Dunstann Remember - in the world of "diversity", alternative voices are NOT allowed.


And you might have missed the fact that this blog is not about improving our public education system (or any education system).  It's fully focused on making Public Education work best for the who they think is the most important constituency - that being the adults that make up the eduacracy.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Wascatlady @AJCkrtk @Dunstann So to WASCAT tripling of per student funding over the past 30 years, after accounting for inflation, is...wait for it...


"Starving the horse".  


More like the horse is so fat it can't run anymore.


Yeah, we want our schools run by people who think like that.  Said no parent or taxpayer.  Ever.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@dcdcdc @Wascatlady @AJCkrtk @Dunstann  Let's see...what could possibly cost more today than it did 30 years ago? (even counting for inflation)  Do teachers make more?  Sure.  Don't you?  Does the operation of the buildings cost more?  Sure.  Does it not cost more to operate your business?  Textbooks?  Yes, they cost more.  Or we can use digital books and students all need access to a computer...does this cost more than a set of encyclopedias did 30 years ago?  Sure.  Has our required documentation increased?  Yes.  Does this require more employees?  Yes.  Then, of course, we have to pay for these tests that so many think can tell everything you need to know about a student and a teacher.  Let's not forget how much information is being generated...more than 30 years ago?  Of course.  Twenty percent of the Google searches done today were searches that had never been done before.  We have to try to keep up with the world around us. I would love to know where you would cut the budget. 

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@elementary-pal @dcdcdc @Wascatlady @AJCkrtk @Dunstann Tripling of cost (after accounting for inflation - I know..such a VERY HARD concept for folks like you who don't actually use your brain to think, but just parrot liberal talking points, to understand), with zero return.  None.  If you are happy with that, please come become a client of my company.  


Meanwhile, pretty much everything else in our country has become more productive, not less.



Barnum was right - an idiot is born every day.


When you decide to actually think, let us know.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@dcdcdc @Wascatlady @AJCkrtk @Dunstann  Wow...Name calling?  really?  I was taught that when folks resort to name calling, they have no support for their argument.  But just so you know - I think quite a bit.  I think about how people like you make assumptions about people like me without having any information on which to base your comments.   

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