There is one thing that has remained consistent since I began writing this blog 5 years ago: the inability of the state of Tennessee to conduct an error-free standardized test. Normally, this inability would get tossed into the “don’t let the perfect become the enemy of good” bin, but first off, I’m not even sure that we’ve reached good status, and secondly, the stakes are just too high to settle for mere good. If you are going to have a policy that has this kind of impact on the lives on children and teachers, it better be damn near perfect or it needs to be done away with.
State testing started last week, and like it does every year, problems quickly surfaced. It didn’t take long for the same denials and half-truths to again emerge. Though this year, the TNDOE introduced a new creative wrinkle: the tests were hacked. Which, to me, is a head scratcher. Because why bother with a hack when you know you can depend upon the TNDOE’s incompetence to disrupt things? It seems like a whole lot of extra work to get the same result, but I’m sure it will be investigated.
The beautiful thing about writing this blog is that I don’t have to depend upon the official narrative to deliver the truth. I’m blessed to have access to an army of teachers who are equally committed to providing the truth. So while State Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen was reassuring us that everything was going well, here’s what was really happening in a middle school last week:
The following is a written account of our testing day on Thursday, April 19, 2018. This was actually a more successful day for us than Monday and Tuesday. The students referenced below were supposed to begin their test session at 9:30am and end by 11:05am. The starting lunch times for these students ranged from 11:25am- 11:45am.9:30: 137 students at my school are seated and testing instructions begin.9:32: During the instruction process, students are directed to login. Students begin experiencing the following problems:– After entering usernames/passwords, many of their screens freeze.– Some are able to login, but screen freezes when trying to enter their test-specific access code.– Some are able to get their test-specific access code entered, but then are knocked out of the test and kicked back to the login screen.9:50: Four out of 137 students have successfully logged into the test. The other 133 students are continuing the battle by repeating the following process:Students are having to log off the computer, log back into the computer, pull up the Questar program, and re-enter their username and password. All students repeated this process at least three times before some students were able to get to the next step. Thirty-eight (of the remaining 133) students are finally able to get to the point where a PROCTOR password (8-digit code) has to be manually entered by the test administrator of the classroom. These students wait until the test administrator is able to reach them to enter this special password as it is considered a secure password and we are not allowed to let students enter this password on their own (Please note: there are five labs testing, so each class has between 25-30 students, and each test administrator is having approximately 7-8 students to manually enter the proctor password while still trying to keep record of every individual student’s start time on the test.).While this is going on, the rest of the students are stuck in different stages of the login process: some are still freezing repetitively at the login screen, some are getting stuck right after the students login.Students continue repeating the cycle of logging off, logging back into computer, opening the Questar program, entering their login credentials, etc.As time passes, students slowly get further and further along the login process, as their test administrator is having to run around and manually enter the PROCTOR password while trying to accurately document every student’s starting point.10:32: All 137 students trying to test are all finally logged in, taking their test.10:37: Random students begin getting kicked out of the system. After being kicked out, up to 12 students per room are at different phases of the login cycle (having to repeat the same login process outlined above several times before getting back into the test). Once again, the test administrator is responsible for keeping an accurate log of each student’s individual time.10:38: Thirty-eight students are still trying to get back into the test after getting kicked out.10:52: All students are back into the program (once again, after continuously repeating the login procedures above).As these issues are taking place, students who are in the program are experiencing the following glitches that Questar has been made aware of, but not fixed:Students cannot backspace. They are writing an essay, but their backspace does not work in the program. If they try the undo button, it causes more typing issues. Also, there were times that the program randomly stopped allowing them to type. To fix this, they have to hit the back button and go back to the previous question and then go back to their essay to start typing again. Many students had to repeat this process over 10 times during their essay writing. Keep in mind, THIS IS A TIMED TEST and these are 11 – 13 year olds having to fight this program to this extent just to take this test.11:25-11:35: As their scheduled lunch times pass, students work hard at trying to overcome these challenges to get their essays completed. They just want this to be over.11:45: Students begin to try to submit their essays. Errors start popping up for the students saying that their computer is not connected to the internet, that their progress is not going to be able to be saved. We are told to have students log off, log back in, and then try to submit. Students then go through the repeated cycles of logging off, logging back in, getting to different stages of the login process before they may or may not get kicked back off or their computer freezes. The test administrator is trying to run to the ones who get to the point of entering the PROCTOR code so they can progress to the next step to hopefully submit their essays.11:58: Students have surpassed their scheduled lunch time, so we have to end this cycle of trying to submit their tests and send students to lunch (which overcrowds the lunch area and causes issues during lunch trying to get everyone served).Testing is halted after this for our afternoon session by our district office.
I’m just about through the first chapter of Making The Unequal Metropolis and it’s raised a few questions and observations for me.
The book talks about the shift to a focus on education as a means for economic outcomes (i.e., vocational schools) as a driver of inequity. This makes me wonder how our emphasis on STEAM is not just a modern day variation of this. It’s always been about increased property values in Nashville. The author cites the creation of homogenous neighborhoods anchored by a neighborhood school as a major driver of segregation. Does the recent movement towards community schools not carry the same inherent risk of recreating that effect?
These are my initial thoughts. There will be a Nashville Ed Chat community discussion about Chapter 1 of Dr. Erickson’s book coming up on April 28.
There’s a FREE training session for parents or people who know parents of a child receiving special education services. If you’re wanting to be an active participant in your child’s education, but just aren’t sure where to begin, then this session is for you.
The Special Education Advocacy Center and Nashville Rise are joining forces to bring you Knowledge Is Power training sessions for parents of students with disabilities. Learn the ins and outs of special education and gain the tools you need to successfully advocate for your child in the special education system.
Transportation, Child Care, and Interpretation Services provided if requested during registration.
We got some incredible response to this week’s poll questions. I suspect that a Reading Recovery teacher or two might have been stuffing the ballot box, but you know what they say…vote early and often. Let’s look at this week’s results.
First question asked if you though that Dr. Joseph’s decentralization of Reading Recovery was politically motivated. Out of 207 responses, 157 of you replied, “I do and it bothers me.” Only 7 of you answered, “No. The data supports the move.” I don’t think I need to say anything else. Here are the write-ins:
|Not a fan of reading recovery. But this reeks of retaliation. Childish.||1|
|Absolutely, ticked at all board members that allowed it to happen!||1|
|yes, but it needed to go||1|
|It’s messed up. So is the $$$ for IFL and others||1|
|Absolutely… the research reports were dated March 2018 & April 12, 2018||1|
|I am not sure, but the program was way too expensive.||1|
|Clueless about effective literacy instruction: Petty, Lipsey, Felder, & Joseph||1|
|I’m a reading recovery specialist. What do you think??||1|
|Not sure, withholding judgement||1|
|Absolutely! And the only ones who will pay for it are our students.||1|
|Are you kidding me?? Of course it is.||1|
|I think that was the plan from the day he started… two birds, one stone.|
|Ask the legislators to resign who voted this mess into place.||1|
|No. That’s by a part of her responsibilities||1|
|The state legislature should resign… wholesale.||1|
|I thought it was a contractor issue||1|
|No. She’s just dealing with Huffman’s legacy.||1|
|not resign, but go back to drawing board for a total reset||1|
|She’s dealing with Huffman & his incompetent cronies decisions||1|
|Not specifically for TNReady issues but over additional problems||1|
|too complex to answer here||1|
|No, it’s remiss technology had some issues, but the reaction has been hyperbolic||1|
|Absolutely. Why free pass for state? Teacher would be fired for same mistake.||1|
|Technology is not paper pencil… but shouldn’t there be a plan B?|
I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out the Thomas “TC” Weber for MNPS District 2 School Board page.