Glitch pauses statewide testing for Missoula schools


Glitch pauses statewide testing for Missoula schools

MISSOULA, Mont. - A network server issue on Tuesday for statewide education testing left six schools in the Missoula County Public Schools district on pause.

It's the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is a way to test the new Common Core standards for students. Glitches are happening in multiple districts across the state.

SBAC tests third through eighth grade students, as well as 11th graders, on language arts and mathematics.

Because of the server problem, students at Hawthorne Elementary School, Washington Middle School and Big Sky High School couldn't log in to take the test.

This is the first year for computerized testing assessments in Montana.

Students took a trial test last year, but it didn't count and was provided by a different vendor.

It's taken millions of tax dollars to prepare for the testing -- nearly $6.5 million.  

The Office of Public Instruction declined to comment on Tuesday.  

It's been three years in the making to get kids to test, but network issues have caused a delay.

"It's frustrating. Testing, in general, is something that does change the instructional day and it changes the environment of what students are doing," said Director of Technology and Communication with Missoula County Public Schools Hatton Littman.

Littman said that with an interruption like this, schools have to reorganize the schedule for the day, talk with students and tell parents what happened.

The preparations for testing don't come cheap either. Here's a break down from the state of Montana -- just to hire enough math teachers to teach the new curriculum cost over $2 million. The curriculum, textbooks and materials cost another $2 million. Professional development is another $1 million and costs to administer the test itself are around $1 million.

"I think it's kind of a waste of money in the sense that I think we should trust teachers to teach," said Missoula resident Erik Kappelman.

Other residents say there are pros and cons to state testing. It's good to see what students are learning but with unexpected inturruptions like this, it's not worth it.

"I'm not sure how I feel about it," said Missoula resident Siri Wieringa.

"I think we should just test people the old way, with paper and a pencil," said Clinton resident Kris Ritchart.

For now, some schools like Big Sky High School will attempt to test again on Wednesday.

Littman said the tests are adaptive, meaning that, unlike pencil and paper, the computerized test is able to give the student an easier or harder question, based on how they are doing.

She says the district is scheduled to finish testing by the end of May.

Missoula's not the only place having issues. In Bozeman, Chief Joseph Middle School students were not able to take the test on Tuesday because of problems logging into the system.

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