TULSA, Okla. - An unforeseen computer glitch halted end-of-year testing at schools across Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education estimates the computer issues disrupted testing for approximately 8,100 students statewide. The state school superintendent blames the failure on the test vendor, CTB/McGraw-Hill.
While the vendor works to get the computer system back online, the timing could not have been worse. Local schools are in the midst of one of the busiest testing periods of the year. Many students and teachers are now wondering what will happen next since so many of them never got to finish their end-of-year tests due to the computer issues.
At Jenks Middle School in south Tulsa, about 150 seventh grade students planned to take the state reading exam Monday on the computer. Many of them never got to finish, though, because of the computer problems. Seventh grader Sanjeev Musuvathy and his classmates prepared for months to take the test, but he said as soon as they all sat down to log on and begin, everything went wrong.
"People were having trouble logging into their computers. I was having some trouble with that, too," he explained. "The actual program wasn't working that well. It would take a long time to actually load up."
Musuvathy said the computer kicked him off the test nine times before he managed to complete it. Many of his classmates, however, were not as lucky. The test booted some of his friends off the test as many as 20 and 30 times, so they never got a chance to finish. Rob Miller, the Jenks Middle School principal, says this is unacceptable.
"I'm very angry that this could happen a second time after all the problems last year," Miller said.
He hopes the state will abandon computer testing and go back to paper and pencil because he said the schools have gotten back quicker results from the traditional format and would not have to worry about these crippling crashes. His concern now, though, is for the students.
When some of them are finally able to retake the tests, he worries that those students will make more errors trying to work through the questions quickly before the testing site fails again.
"I think it does play tricks with the minds of young adolescents," Miller said.
"We spend the time to get everything in place, have a good plan ready to execute, kids know when they're supposed to be tested and now that's all up in flames as a result of today," he added.
The same problems that plagued several Jenks schools also affected Tulsa Met High School in north Tulsa. Computer issues caused about 30 students there to not complete their Algebra II and Biology exams. Those that did manage to finish, like junior Jacob Wisdom, are upset.
"It was just a pretty bad experience today for testing," Wisdom said.
He hopes the state invalidates the score on his biology test because he admits all the delays caused him to lose concentration.
"You're in the middle of a question, and then out of nowhere, it just shuts down on you," Wisdom said, "so it was really hard to remain focused."
The administrators at his school plan to push the state to throw out the test scores, calling the whole situation "unfair" and "unethical."
"Frankly as of now, I don't have any answers for (the students) because we haven't gotten word from the State Department whether these tests will be invalidated or whether these students will get another run at these tests," said Dr. Michelle Butler, principal of Tulsa Met.
"I can tell you," she added, "that we're going to fight our best to make sure that their students are treated fairly and that they get the scores that they deserve."