I know some readers became weary of all my reporting this week on the computer glitches surrounding the online administration of the Georgia Milestones. But when you attach high-stakes to the Georgia Milestones -- retention in middle and elementary schools, 20 percent of high school grades and teacher/school ratings -- you must get it right. You cannot saddle students with the additional stress of failing technology when they take critical tests.
While the state Department of Education cited more problems during the inaugural roll-out of the Milestones last year, parent and teachers reported multiple delays, students forced to restart tests five to 10 times and retests extending days.
I talked to several teachers who told me this round of testing was the most stressful in their careers because both parents and students were upset over all the retakes and the inability to resolve the computer problems quickly. And the IT people in affected systems apparently aged a decade trying to fix the issues.
(See Fulton teacher's account of the experience.)
Those complaints -- coming in the greatest number from Fulton, the state's fourth largest system -- have caused DOE to take action, as MyAJC.com's Marlon A. Walker reported Friday.
I have a few more details to add to that report after communicating with DOE spokesman Matt Cardoza Saturday. (Thanks to Matt for responding to weekend emails.)
He told me:
We will be asking the state Board of Education to waive the promotion retention for three through eight. It’s too early to make that decision on end-of-course tests because they just started this week and there have not been the same issues with technology we saw with the end-of-grade tests.
Pending the approval of the Educator Effectiveness Committee, made up of multiple state education agencies including DOE, Cardoza said:
"Growth will not count this year as far as TKES/LKES and will not count next year with the revised evaluation system. All that is being reported to Professional Standards Commission is based on teachers/leaders that rate an ineffective or needs development on TAPS/LAPS (observation piece) this year and it should remain the same for the 2016-17 school year. So to answer your question, anything to do with the growth area should certainly be held harmless for next year, pending approval of the Educator Effectiveness Committee."
Some IT obstacles fell outside the control of the schools or the state. The U.S. History Milestones at Grady High School in Atlanta was delayed last week when the "IT network service provider experienced an outage that impacted all of their customers in the southeastern part of the country," according to a note sent to parents by the principal.
How are the end of course tests going in Georgia high schools?