Study: Online glitches didn’t affect math and reading scores

Published 9:51 am Friday, August 23, 2013

ST. PAUL — Recurring problems with an online system for administering proficiency tests had minimal impact on students’ scores this spring, Minnesota education officials said.

A state-commissioned review concluded that while students experienced computer slowdowns, freezes and other disruptions on April 16 and 23, “there is no statistical evidence to suggest that the disruption, on average, adversely impacted students and schools.”

Thousands of students across Minnesota experienced slow loading times and other problems in April that interfered with their beginning or completing math and reading Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests.

Email newsletter signup

The state is set to release the results of the MCAs next week.

“Rest assured, I am doing everything within my power to ensure Minnesota’s testing vendor, American Institutes for Research, is fully prepared for future online assessments in Minnesota,” Cassellius wrote in a letter to school leaders posted on her department’s website, along with the analysis and a letter to parents.

The state has a $61 million contract with AIR to administer the MCAs and other assessments.

AIR representatives have said slow test load times and other problems on April 16 were the result of an equipment problem, but no problems were found in the company’s system April 23. The problems caused Cassellius to extend the window for students to take the exams.

Minnesota is making the transition from paper to online tests because teachers and students like the immediate feedback they provide. While thousands of students experienced some testing disruptions, many more completed tests without issues.

Critics of online testing have said vendors that contracted with states to provide the tests have over-promised what their systems can deliver. They argue the inconsistency of Internet infrastructure makes it tough to guarantee every student has the same testing experience.

“Every student has a right to an uninterrupted testing experience, which is why I am instructing AIR to take all preventative measures to make sure this does not happen again,” Cassellius wrote to parents.

Indiana, Oklahoma and Kentucky also had problems with online proficiency tests in the spring. Those states use a different vendor to administer their tests, but like Minnesota, their reviews found the disruptions had little impact on students’ scores.