System down, school testing delayed

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, March 29, 2016 10:18pm
  • News

Students statewide were unable to start the Alaska Measures of Progress and Alaska Alternate assessments Tuesday, the first day scheduled for this year’s round of testing.

A construction vehicle at the University of Kansas, which houses the testing vendor, the Achievement and Assessment Institute, drove over and sliced a fiber optic cable, shutting down the Internet across campus and cutting off Alaska’s access to the test servers.

“It was just a complete unknown that something of this magnitude would happen,” said Elizabeth Davis, Standards Implementation Administrator for the Department of Education and Early Development. “It was something we couldn’t plan for.”

Davis said the state had experiences to take from the first round of testing, such as an entire village losing Internet or getting the flu for example, and contingency plans designed to address similar situations, but her department and the vendor, “they were floored,” she said.

So far, the expected delays are minimal.

The department of education is asking that all of Alaska’s 54 public school districts wait until Thursday to resume testing, although the cable will likely be repaired by sometime Wednesday, Davis said. The state and vendor want to run tests on the systems to make sure there will be no residual issues following the unexpected shutdown, she said.

Davis said the Department of Education is working closely with the test coordinators in every school district to organize efforts.

Davis said it was around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning when the calls and emails first started coming from school district educators and test coordinators. Pegge Erkeneff, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District spokesperson, said administrators first received information about the technical difficulties from the department of education around 11 a.m.

Testing was scheduled to begin at roughly half of the school district’s 43 sites Tuesday, Erkeneff said. The final date that schools needed to finish up was April 29.

“The state provides a window for the testing; KPBSD can adapt to an unexpected event such as the one that took place in Kansas today, when the fiber optic cable was cut,” she said.

The state asked the school districts to work on getting things in place in case the delays last much longer, Davis said. It is most likely the larger school districts will be hit hardest by the setback, because they need the entire window to make sure their entire student population is tested, she said.

Sites like the North Slope Borough School District may see the delays cut into their season for subsistence hunting, which is already affected by the test dates, Davis said. Some school districts rent out facilities to for students to take the assessments because their schools don’t have the room to house everyone at one time. The state will work with administrators and test coordinators in those areas to reschedule rentals or address financial issues, she said.

There are a number of ways rescheduling can be handled, which is made easier by the fact that the AMP is taken online, so a student can finish the entire test in a day, or take as much time as they need, as long as their school allows it, Davis said. If necessary, the state will add extra days onto the testing window, she said.

Everyone at AAI has been very responsive in addressing the problem, and working with the state, Davis said.


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