Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Minnesota MCA Testing Woes Continue

After issues on April 14th and 15th, glitches cropped up again today (4/21) in Minnesota's high-stakes online MCA tests. This time, nearly every district in the state experienced some issues. At least one local news organization has picked up on the problems. I have feeling more will follow. (And they have - Pioneer Press - WCCO - In fact, since I started writing this post, MDE has suspended all testing until further notice)

The MN Department of Education (MDE) and the testing vendor, Pearson held a joint conference call on Monday (4/20). During the Q & A, dozens of MN districts reported various issues that caused, at minimum, frustrating delays in starting test sessions for students and at worst, lost data. What was clear was that these issues were not isolated to specific tests or geographic location of the schools and they were not usually caused by local school district network or setup problems.

So, bring on today (Tuesday 4/21) and by 8:45 this morning, Pearson and MDE acknowledged that some of the systems were in a "degraded" state resulting in delays. For about 2.5 hours in the middle of the day, the systems were reportedly working, before going back into a degraded state and eventually becoming unresponsive. (my guess is it worked during the lunch hours when few testing sessions were being held.)

If you've read my previous posts, you know that I have questions about the validity of a testing system that introduces variables of anxiety and frustration. I've conveyed that message to many people including officials at MDE and as you saw above, MDE has now suspended testing citing some of the same concerns I and many others have pointed out. Also of note is that these issues have affected testing in other states as well.

I did find it interesting that one of the responses I received from an MDE official pointed to me to a study that had been done after the 2013 Spring testing season when similar issues occurred with the previous testing vendor, American Institutes for Research (AIR). After taking a brief look, I recalled that this was used to calm the concerns over validity as the study generally indicated that there was no significant effect to students who experienced the issues on those days in April 2013. However, there are significant problems with the study and it so narrowly examined ONLY the specific issue that occurred on those days that it certainly has NO correlation to what we are experiencing now. I'll probably do a separate post about that study - and I have a general post about testing coming up too. Check back soon if you think you might be interested in either of those ramblings!

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