New Issues Arise Involving Testing Company

April 25, 2018 11:08 PM

(KSTP) -- New problems have arisen involving the testing company Pearson.

Computer log-in issues delayed standardized testing at three Minnetonka schools Tuesday, and school district officials said it slowed things down quite a bit.


The hiccup impacted 20 percent of Minnetonka students.

"The testing environment would slow down - sometimes not moving at all," Minnetonka superintendent Eric Schneider said. "And so we ended up shutting down testing at our middle school east, and then we were able to restart our two (elementary schools) that were impacted."

Kevin McHenry, an assistant commissioner with the Minnesota Department of Education, said the system had around 200,000 students testing across the state Tuesday.

"Once they found out what the error code was, Pearson was monitoring and they actually increased our capacity to make sure that students were not necessarily getting kicked out when they were taking the exams," he said.

In a statement, Pearson also said the matter was resolved quickly.

"On Tuesday, April 24, Pearson received sporadic reports of connectivity issues as schools began testing," the statement read in part. "Pearson Technology support teams quickly added additional capacity, which immediately mitigated the issue."

But the president of Education Minnesota said in a statement that the glitch is an example of why standardized tests should not be relied upon to provide data to parents and teachers.

"This is another example of how computerized, standardized testing fails to produce reliable data for parents or teachers," the statement from Denise Specht read. 

"The glitches endemic in these systems affect the scores of students in unpredictable ways. That's just one more reason for parents concerned about the academic progress of their children to speak with educators, not rely on test scores. It is also one of the reasons why teachers oppose rating schools based on the scores of these unreliable tests. A bill to create such a system is now moving through the State Legislature."

This week's incident was the latest in a string of issues involving the company - including scoring mistakes and technical troubles.

Here is a look at some of those issues:

2001:  8,000 Minnesota students sue Pearson after a math test scoring mistake caused some students to not graduate.  Pearson wrongly scored 47,000 tests.  The company agreed to a $7 million settlement in 2002.

2010:  Pearson incorrectly scored two questions on the state science test, the M-C-A Two test, resulting in a delay in results.  The scoring errors were on tests given to 5th and 8th graders.

2015:  The Minnesota Department of Education suspended administering the M-C-A science test after students experienced technical troubles. The state said Pearson was experiencing an outside attack on its system.  This happened twice in one month.  Commissioner Brenda Cassellius questioned Pearson's ability to fix the problem.

2015:  The Minnesota Department of Education settles with Pearson for $5.69 million for the testing disruption earlier in the year. Pearson credited the state $1 million in fees and provided $4.69 million in additional services and support for Minnesota school districts.


Todd Wilson

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