The Georgia Department of Education ought to include a bottle of aspirin with every packet of Milestones instructions sent to district testing coordinators next year. Because testing turned into a giant headache this year, and the pain isn’t over yet.
The online administration of the Milestones worked well in some districts but badly in others, most notably Fulton where iPads crashed, children cried and teachers consoled. As a result of the reports of multiple disruptions and computer glitches, the state Board of Education gave districts the option to waive the scores in decisions about retaining students.
But the problems didn’t end with the administration of Milestones; DOE has not gotten scores back in time to some districts that planned to retest students who did poorly — despite pledges online testing would expedite results.
DOE failed to return scores for more than 900 students in Newton County schools, forcing the cancellation of retests. “It is very disappointing that we are unable to retest, particularly since we elected to test online in grades three, five, and eight, in the first place, to receive results quicker and retest before school ended,” said Allison Jordan, Newton’s director of testing, research, and evaluation, in a statement to parents.
Cobb also cancelled retests, telling parents, “…we remain convinced that students deserve and can benefit from a second opportunity. Despite the benefits of retesting, we cannot keep our schools, children, or families in limbo any longer.”
Nor are scores back yet for some End of Course tests, which count for at least 20 percent of a high school student’s grade. Tonight, I asked for a show of hands on AJC Get Schooled Facebook from teachers in districts still awaiting scores. The list included Laurens, Forsyth, Houston, Decatur, Clayton, Lincoln, Paulding, Cobb, Polk, Henry and DeKalb.
Knox Phillips, director of DeKalb’s Office of Research, Assessments and Grants, said DOE promised him all scores will be back by Tuesday. “The state has apologized profusely,” said Phillips, who expects counselors to assume the task of entering grades since Friday is the last day for teachers. “We expected to have scores turned around within a week with online testing. For me, the biggest problem is the undue anxiety for students — the longer we have to wait to get scores back, the longer the child has to wait to get a finalized transcript.”
Some parents whose kids encountered testing challenges maintain the EOC scores should be invalidated, especially since that 20 percent could mean a C instead of a B for a student. Among the problems reported by parents: Districts required students to use the online calculators embedded in tests – per the testing instructions — even though some were faulty and lacked proper functionality (graphing, for instance). Other districts permitted students to pull out their personal calculators.
“My son would have much rather used the calculator he was familiar with and had been using all year,” said one mom. “When I let him know other counties were able to use their own, he was flabbergasted. That is simply not fair. These kids are working their tails off to get into college and they keep getting thrown roadblocks. Enough is enough. Quit experimenting with our kids future!”
These still-to-come EOC grades potentially could lower student GPAs. As one teacher told me, “We have students graduating tonight for whom we still don’t have American Lit scores. We also have a few students who could theoretically lose HOPE during the summer because of the Milestones test score dropping their class grade down.”
The Legislature has long insisted teachers are the ones resistant to testing, that parents want to know where their children stand. Here’s where parents don’t want their children to stand — in line waiting for tests to load or scores to arrive.