Response to today’s conversation

Commenters on the AJC Get Schooled blog discussed the debut of the state’s new Georgia Milestones tests. Many complained about technical challenges, especially for students with special needs who require testing accommodations. Here is a sampling of comments:

John: One thing is for sure: These tests did not work, and they are going to provide no viable feedback for students or teachers. Scores will not be back until next fall, if even then, and several sections have already been invalidated. Testing is supposed to provide specific and timely feedback to students and teachers. This feedback should help design instruction and allow teachers to see where students have either mastered material or where students need additional help and instruction. The only beneficiaries of this testing debacle are McGraw Hill (who will make millions from Georgia taxpayers) and politicians who will use the flawed results to justify their political agenda to destroy public schools.

BCW: They seemed to have underestimated the volume of test taking that was going to take place. And for it to happen with the screen reader accommodation groups was not good either. Those groups struggle with testing when everything goes well as it is.

Living: I am all for online testing, but there can be absolutely no software glitches. No one can argue that a student is in a very stressful situation when taking a standardized test. If there were glitches, then we have added to such stress, and this can have quite an adverse impact on a student's performance. And I'd love to know how much learning time was lost by testing and implementing the new test protocol.

Bud: My child didn't report any problems. Now they did a dry run a couple months ago and had lots of issues. I suspect these technical snafus are due to insufficient preparations by the local school, not the vendor. It sounds like a lot of the anti-testing complainers grabbing at anything they can when the technical problems may well be due to incompetence at the school level.

Dg: The Georgia Milestones is designed first and foremost to measure student achievement in the tested courses, not student growth. These are two very different things. When you look at how teachers are measured for their evaluation, however, it is by student growth. The test, according to the state, isn't designed to measure that.

Joe: Students who took the online test were at a serious disadvantage compared to those who took the paper test. The highlighter actually made it more difficult to read the words. Having to scroll reading passages was hard for many. The lack of a drawing tool prevented many students from being able to interact with the test to use their problem-solving strategies.

Sandy: Is the computer hardware sufficient to run the software? How about school systems without newer technology? Had an IT analysis of each school system's capabilities been conducted prior to piloting online tests? I have been in many work situations where the software was fine, but there was no money to upgrade the hardware, and the software froze, ran too slowly or would not run at all.