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Superintendent: Online testing problems were minimal in Bryan

The company that administered the 2015 Georgia Milestones testing online will provide $4.5 million in free services to the Georgia Department of Education because of errors and disruptions that occurred.

The reparation by CTB/McGraw-Hill will “include safeguards to ensure future administrations of the test take place with no similar issues,” according to a news release from State School Superintendent Richard Woods.

Students at several schools throughout the state took this spring’s Georgia Milestones end-of-grade tests online, and some of those schools experienced periodic connection issues. Many of those were attributed to the lengthy delay in the test-administration system’s ability to sync student information across databases, said Matt Cardoza, the communications director for the Georgia Department of Education.

The disruptions were minimal in Bryan County, according to Schools Superintendent Paul Brooksher.

“The system experienced some technical difficulties during the new online testing this past school year,” Brooksher said. “Our system staff and students were patient throughout the process, and we look forward to smoother testing administration next school year.”

School systems selected a small percentage of students to take the online version of the assessments, and Bryan County school leaders chose third, fifth and eighth grades. Within five years, all Georgia school systems are expected to have the majority of students test online.

During the 2015 Georgia Milestones, some students’ online  tests “froze” or took prolonged periods of time to load the next test question. The problems became more prevalent on April 21 and 22 as more schools across the state began to test, according to Cardoza.

“The interruptions were sporadic and scattered across the state, affecting a relatively small number of students,” he said. “At no time was Georgia required to suspend all testing, as was the case in other states this spring.”

CTB/McGraw-Hill’s free services will include $2.64 million to create and implement end-of-course assessments serving the new traditional/discrete math course options — meaning those tests will be developed at no expense to Georgia taxpayers.

In addition, the company will provide up to $120,000 for an in-state program manager to serve as a point of contact for the Georgia Department of Education for one year, helping to coordinate, organize and prioritize tasks requiring DoE review and input.

Also included are up to $60,000 toward an independent analysis of the problems that took place in 2015-16 and more than $1.6 million in additional services, according to the press release.

After a recent meeting between Woods and CTB/McGraw-Hill President Ellen Haley, CTB/McGraw-Hill agreed to provide the services as compensation for the errors and disruptions that took place during the 2015 test administration.

“Holding CTB/McGraw-Hill accountable for these issues was non-negotiable for us,” Woods said. “The problems were not widespread, but for the students who were affected, that does not matter. It was essential that we ensure this never happens again.”

Woods has started the planning process of working with nonprofits to conduct an audit of state and local testing, Cardoza said.

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