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Your source to discuss and learn about education in Georgia and the nation and share opinions and news with Maureen Downey

That bad dream about being unable to finish test? Hundreds of Georgia students living it.

UPDATE Tuesday morning and question: Can students resuming interrupted Georgia Milestones tests today due to computer problems go back and change earlier answers? Here is what one parent said:


Of five tests, my middle school son had two shut down in the middle and one delay for more than an hour to start. His ELA essay restarted after nearly two hours of sitting without speaking, water or restroom. That's a great way to resume writing a complex essay. The other test is supposed to resume today so he spent this morning checking the answers he was unsure of so he can correct them. We discussed the ethics of that but since the test is so unethical in the first place, we decided it was fair. His opinion is that the whole testing process is designed to punish teachers and students and he's right.

My question: Is there any way to prevent the students resuming interrupted testing today from correcting earlier answers? Should schools worry about this happening? The students whose testing was interrupted because of technical failures are under greater stress as a result so maybe we should cut them a break.

I shared the parent's comment with Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the state Department of Education. He said:

It really depends on the circumstances.  Generally speaking they should continue from where they were interrupted.  The test will take them to that point. And depending on the circumstances, we sometimes allow students back in to complete the test.  This is not allowed in all circumstances – but in cases where it is clearly not the fault of the student….we do our best to err on the side of the student.

Original blog:

I am among the many adults who still have that common anxiety dream about flubbing an important exam. While I'm too old to ever have tested on a computer, my current reliance on technology has invaded my sleep. In some dreams, I'm at a computer and can't get the test to work.

Students across Georgia are in the midst of a similar nightmare as they attempt to navigate the Georgia Milestones tests online. The transition to online testing is not going well in many places, increasing the anxiety of an already  high stress experience for students and teachers. The snafus were not limited to one county, although Fulton seemed to have the greatest issues in the metro area.

Among the comments I've heard from parents and teachers today:

  • We have reports of several middle schools in North Fulton struggling with the tech platform today. Students got set up in the morning only to lose their connection and then wait. And wait. Eventually the district level people called it a wash and those students will have to complete social studies tests tomorrow. Students waited, asking when they could eat lunch and their teachers could not answer until decisions were made from above. This afternoon these schools did not attempt testing with the PM testers so those students' afternoon was a wash -- movie watching or some such waste of a day of instruction.
  • My son's school's computers crashed on Friday during the test. They had to go back in the afternoon and sit for another hour since they would never load. We are now being told they will do it Wednesday afternoon. Their Milestones were supposed to be finished on Friday, but they still have it hanging over their heads this week.
  • My son is in the 7th grade.  They had their Milestone testing last week.  On Friday, we received a message there were technical issues and that they would have to finish their testing in the afternoon (they had been testing all morning) and to please not check out any children.  I guess after sitting and staring in a quiet room for 45 minutes, they were still unable to test.  He said they have one section left, and they will finish it today.
  • While my school has not encountered any technical issues, like most middle schools, they’ve had to break the 8th graders into four smaller testing groups in order to allow each student to have a hardwired computer.  This leaves three-fourths of the eighth grader out of the classroom without their regular teachers at any given time for two-and-a-half weeks.  It’s very difficult to plan and carry out quality instruction under these circumstances.  My guess is that the legislators and the Department of Education didn’t think this part through when mandating the Milestones be taken digitally.  Just another one of the many ways our Georgia government is academically stunting our public school students.
  • My county worked toward 100 percent online testing. However, one middle school never got online, so they were forced to order paper tests and were three days late getting started with testing. Another middle school started testing, but the entire system went down on the second day. They had students crying and upset because of the testing difficulties. Online testing at my school went much smoother than the other middle schools, but it was not without hiccups. We had several students who were kicked out of the program mid test. They were then forced to do hard resets (sometimes up to 30 or 40 attempts.)  The stress was palpable.
  • I am an English teacher. All year, I have taught my students to cite the text from which they reference directly and to put quotation marks around direct quotations. However, quotation marks were not working online and my students were quite confused. Many of them didn't put anything at all. After testing we found out there was a way to add them that included adding a plus sign and extra spaces or something silly. My poor students were so stressed because of things like the tab button not working and quotation marks not working. It seems as though they are asking us to make our students technologically literate, but then changing the technology on the test. At the end of the day, our school has great administrators who worked to make the transition to online testing as seamless as possible, but at the end of the day technology can be a giant pain.
  • On Friday,  they administered SLO tests for algebra 2. My daughter was close to completing the test. She said it took the whole period. The wifi/Internet went down and the test she worked hard on was canceled.
  • There are many reports of tech issues across the state. I've also seen a number of parents post that their children's lunches were very delayed and even school dismissals were delayed to allow testing to finish up. I'm personally aware of so many irregularities that I cannot imagine how they can consider results valid.
  • This needs to be a hold harmless year for everyone. These schools were not built for the levels of technology being required. Algebra 2 test online crashed at the very end and there is still no decision on what to do. Data Recognition Corporation is a bigger nightmare than McGraw Hill ever was.
  • In our school, the science portion died between part one and part two. Some had finished and hit the "submit" button, some, like my kid, were checking their work and suddenly it was offline. They had to go to a second day.
  • Computer issues reported for Georgia Cyber Academy/K-12 students in South Georgia. Computers quit working during the test forcing these children to have to do a make up.
  • Everyone is affected by these tests, even students in lower grades who aren't taking them. Students are sitting in classrooms waiting for higher grades to finish the test (but can't because the computers keep crashing). Lunch is delayed until 1:30 or 2:00, kids going without food for hours. Dismissal is delayed, recess is cancelled, and stress levels are high for everyone-including teachers. How can these tests be valid with so many having to start over? Students are threatened with punishment if they don't score well. I no longer feel good about putting my children on the bus every day just to send them to school to be put through this.

I asked Fulton County Schools for a response and spokeswoman Susan Hale responded: (I could not get a comment from DOE as the agency is closed today for what used to be called Confederate Memorial Day but is now listed on the state  government site as “State Holiday.”)

Some of our schools did experience technical issues during the first days of testing, such as server overload, an unscheduled iPad OS software update, and an AT&T outage. The issues impacted mainly middle schools and some elementary schools who were testing majority online and wireless, and occurred as students were in the testing session or about to begin.

Prior to the testing period, schools in conjunction with our I.T. Department and Assessment Department did a thorough preflight to be sure they would be prepared, such as having all students log on to the testing main site at the same time to be sure that our wireless servers could handle the load. All preflights went very well, so it was unexpected when the servers did not respond accordingly. We continue to research the issue, but our best understanding is that the download of content from the state testing server to our local servers was heavier than anticipated. As for the IOS software update, that was an unexpected issue that did not occur during preflight and we immediately engaged representatives from Apple Inc. to resolve it. As for the AT&T outage, that was unexpected as well, and, unfortunately, is an issue that can happen anytime, anywhere in the community.

To resolve these immediate issues, our I.T. Department added file servers to increase capacity and worked with Apple to reconfigure iPads. We also asked schools to stagger their testing start times so that every student in a school does not start at the exact same time. In most situations, the technical issues have been minor, temporary frustrations that have been resolved. We have a small number of students who need to complete ELA testing (they originally were scheduled for a make-up day tomorrow) but otherwise testing is continuing on its current schedule.

We want students, parents and teachers to be assured that ample time is being given to finish any assessment that was interrupted and that the testing process remains secure. When a testing session would get ‘hung up,’ testing coordinators would make note of when the session started, when the interruption occurred, and then secured the testing environment (such as removing the mobile device/laptop). As for students whose testing was interrupted, the test’s progress automatically saved so students were able to resume the assessment where they were. Since the testing coordinator logged the start time and time of the interruption, we are able to determine the remaining administration time for taking the assessment.


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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.