Education
8:51 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Who’s To Blame For Oklahoma Testing Outage?

Who’s to blame for glitches that prevented 8,100 Oklahoma students from taking their online exams Monday?

State Education Superintendent Janet Barresi minced no words as she berated test administrator CTB/McGraw-Hill for the outage, which affected middle school and high school students across the state.

Nearly 11,000 students were able to complete their exams before the State Department of Education canceled testing for the day.

Testing should resume Wednesday.

Monday's outage could mean the end of McGraw-Hill's work in Oklahoma. Barresi said she would recommend that the state Board of Education not renew the company's contract at the end of the year.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. More Oklahoma Watch content can be found at www.oklahomawatch.org
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. More Oklahoma Watch content can be found at www.oklahomawatch.org

Finding a new test vendor and designing a new test could take a 1.5 years, but State Department of Education officials said they will work to expedite the process. Additional details were not immediately available.

Barres'si announcement came after CTB/McGraw-Hill officials repeatedly assured her in the weeks before testing began that there would be no repeats of last year’s outage. In April 2013, server problems occurred as students in both Indiana and Oklahoma tried to get online to take their tests.

The states now have separate servers, but Monday’s crash was attributed to an unspecified hardware problem at CTB/McGraw Hill.

Monday’s outage was reportedly affecting other divisions within CTB/McGraw-Hill, Barresi said.

Barresi said she has called for company officials to come to Oklahoma to explain what went wrong.

“It is an understatement to say I am frustrated with McGraw-Hill,” Barresi said. “It is an understatement to say I am outraged.”

Barresi said she reluctantly opted to continue the contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill after the 2013 outage because it was too late in the year to design a new test and find a new vendor. That process could take 1.5 years, and would have to go through a public bidding process.

But critics say Barresi still bears responsibility for Monday’s outage since she opted to continue the contract.

Oklahoma Education Association President Linda Hampton said Barresi was quick to pass blame last year, and again Monday, but has yet to take any responsibility herself.

“To quote Einstein, ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,’” Hampton said in a news release. “At the very least this makes one question the competency of the state superintendent and the State Board of Education.”

Monday's testing glitch comes as Barresi is running for re-election and faces potentially stiff opposition in the June primary against former state Board of Education member and teacher Joy Hofmeister.

CTB/McGraw-Hill gets $7.3 million to administer online testing for middle school students, and $6.2 million to administer end of instruction tests for high school students.

The five-year contract, which is in its second year, has to be renewed annually. The contract calls for a $15,000 per day penalty in addition to paying back 3 percent of the contract for outages.