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Dear CTB/McGraw-Hill, Give back our money for problem-prone Georgia Milestones tests

A University of Georgia math education graduate student and middle school math teacher, Zachary Kroll writes a letter of complaint to CTB/McGraw-Hill on the inaugural run of the Georgia Milestones tests.

CTB/McGraw Hill has a five-year,  $107.8 million contract with the state to create the new standardized test. Kroll contends the company owes Georgia a refund for failing to deliver an effective and efficient testing product this year.

By Zachary Kroll

Teachers are being forced to move away from teaching life skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving. They are now required to shoot through as much material as they possibly can within an absurdly short period of time. This has changed the school environment from a friendly, exciting, and caring one to a more stressful, anxious and less happy place for people to come to each day.

I never remember my teachers complaining or freaking out about making sure we covered every piece of material that was going to be on the end of grade/course examination. It is important to note I grew up in a community with excellent schools. This does not change the fact the testing culture has gotten worse over time.

Your company was awarded the contract to design and administer the Georgia Milestones exams. The Georgia Department of Education awarded CTB/McGraw-Hill a five-year contract worth $107.8 million. With this came the expectation we would receive the most effective and efficient testing programs available today.

On your website, you promise by 2019 all of Georgia’s testing will be done online. This is a wonderful goal; as long as you can pledge it is going to work for every student taking these tests.

During this school year, we wasted numerous class periods testing the system, making sure our students can log in, and checking to make sure your technology will work when we need it most. This has taken valuable days away from our teachers, administration, media specialists and, most importantly, our students. These days could have been spent learning.

We, as educators, try to instill in our students a sense of pride, self-efficacy, and responsibility. It is our hope when our students move on from our classrooms they feel better about themselves and trust the work they did was their very best.

I want your company, especially those in charge, to question whether you have done your absolute best when you designed this program and this software. Did your designers and employees put forth their best effort? Did they make sure there was nothing else that could be done to guarantee our teachers and students would not have any issues on testing days?

Based on my experience over the course of the last several months and especially the two weeks of testing, the answer is a resounding NO!

If it were yes, then test administrators, hallway monitors and other school faculty would not have been running around all morning fixing computers that were unable to get into the test. We would not have spent 30 or more minutes of the test period dealing with a system that would not load, a program that froze, or a computer that was working fine until a student logged onto the system. If the testing went as you promised, we would not have had students with accommodations being forced to restart their exams multiple times.

Testing is a stressful time for every party involved, and it is your responsibility to make certain the one thing that does not add to that stress is a software or program error. CTB/McGraw-Hill did not do its job.

Because of this, I ask that you renegotiate the contract you signed with the Georgia DOE and return $21,560,000 to the state. This is one-fifth of the amount of the contract, and I think it is fair to say that you did not earn it this year.

The wonderful thing about this, though, is there is always next year. I encourage you all to take the summer and ask yourselves the questions I posed. Really determine if this software is best for our students. If it is not, then find a way to make it better.  At the end of the day, our No. 1 priority is to give our students the best opportunities to learn.




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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.