By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
Enid Public Schools Superintendent Shawn Hime feels confused by recent statements from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi that seem to be an about-face on problems that arose during end-of-year testing.
Barresi’s recent announcement that the state would back out of a standardized testing consortium and develop its own system for gauging student progress is meeting criticism from both school district officials and legislators.
Widespread problems arose last spring, both in Oklahoma and other states, with computer-generated end-of-year testing. Some students were able to restart their systems and proceed from where the glitch occurred, but other students had to retake entire tests.
According to an Associated Press report, Barresi cited technological readiness of Oklahoma school districts as one of her reasons for the decision that Oklahoma schools will not participate in testing through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a multi-state testing consortium.
“To me, it’s baffling and it’s very disappointing,” Hime said. "Oklahoma was not in a vacuum.”
Hime pointed to the Indiana Department of Education’s decision to go after damages from the testing company. According to a June 22 news story by Indianapolis, Ind., television station WTHR, reports the state education department is seeking more than $600,000 in damages from CTB/ McGraw-Hill for the fiasco.
“The Department of Education says preliminary damages won’t be less than $613,600, and could go into millions of dollars,” WTHR’s report reads.
The same day Indiana officials announced they would pursue damages from the testing company, the president of the testing company issued an apology and admitted it was the testing company’s fault.
“There was more demand on the system, overwhelming the system and services, created bottlenecks on those days and we had to add memory one day, add memory the next day to clear the bottlenecks,” the article quotes Ellen Haley, president of CTB/McGraw-Hill.
“The vendor and the state confirmed at the time that it was the testing vendor’s fault and their technology was overwhelmed,” Hime said.
PARCC was to provide the new tests for the 2014-2015 school year, Hime said.
Owasso Superintendent Clark Ogilvie questioned “the timing and motives” of Barresi’s decision. Barresi is up for re-election in 2014.
“I agree that we need to take a step back and have educators look at the appropriate amount of testing for our students,” Hime said. “But at the end of the day, the decision needs to be made for students, not what’s best politically.”
A spokeswoman for Barresi said the decision on PARCC has been misinterpreted.
“We think we are not going to pull out, we are still going to be a partner,” said Tricia Pemberton, senior communications specialist. “We are examining our options at this point.”
Pemberton said state officials believe not proceeding with PARCC testing will save schools “about $2 million.” It will also save time and permit rural districts to develop better networks and bandwidth, she said.
“We want districts to move toward digital instruction and testing,” Pemberton said. “Some districts need time to build those systems.”