Herculean Efforts By Educators To Mitigate PARCC Catastrophe

Ohio's new standardized tests have been criticized on a number of fronts. Questions about them being developmentally appropriate, results not being available for months, the length of time it takes to administer the tests, the implementation costs, and the technology deficiencies and failures.

The Dispatch reported on the latter set of problems, and they appear to have been widespread, and astronomical in number

Pearson, the testing company that created the state’s new Common Core-aligned English/language arts and math exams, has fielded roughly 9,600 phone calls, emails and chats from Ohio districts since testing started on Feb. 16.

Most of the queries — 86 percent — were related to problems with administering the test, including registering students, getting them into online test sessions and responding to test policies and procedures such as make-up testing.

To understand the full extent of the technology problems PARCC faces, those 10,000 calls must be put in context.

First, only 60% of Ohio's schools administered PARCC online, the rest chose to use paper and pencil. We can only assume that those 40% were the least prepared or capable of offering online testing as a solution this year. how many calls would have been made to Pearson if those schools had had to perform their testing online? How many of those 250 or so school districts will be ready next year?

Secondly, many of the problems we addressed in-house by district staff

Some educators think the number of glitches actually is larger. District technology staffers often turned to one another instead of waiting for a response from a help line answered by the state and Pearson.

No doubt the wait times were lengthy given the sheer volume of problems being experienced.

Nor do these numbers reflect the insane amount of effort districts went to in order to try and mitigate problems before they occurred

The transition at Grandview Heights went seamlessly for students, thanks to nearly 1,000 hours of planning and preparation by staff members, said Jamie Lusher, the district’s chief academic officer. The district tested 780 students.

That's over 1 hour per students, a pattern repeated elsewhere

Bexley schools purposely delayed testing by a week so that any glitches found early would be resolved by the time the district’s students logged in for their exams, Ross said. Also, the district’s technology department spent more than 200 hours preparing devices and planning for administration of the tests. Only 332 high-school students took the exam online; the rest used paper and pencil.

Almost 3 hours preparation per student!

It simply shouldn't be a requirement that Herculean efforts be needed in order to avoid an epic catastrophe. how can you have a high stakes system under these conditions

“If you have a classroom with three to five technical issues and you may have to reset the device, that’s not closing it up and starting it back up again,” said Paul Ross, technology director at Bexley schools. “With some of those device issues, you have to reinstall the test application on the fly. We’re talking about a disruption occurring while testing.”

That has to be solved quickly, he said, or students will have to make up the test.

This years' testing results ought to be treated as a test run, it would be grossly unfair to judge educators and schools on the basis of a product that is barely functional.