Save Escambia County, it appears that Pam Stewart’s FLDOE had a good day with its new FSA tests. But Stewart was taking a big chance by making this her testimony in the morning to a Senate education committee just as districts across the state were logging in. Some of her testimony could backfire. From Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel:
A software update, Stewart said, lead to a slowdown and meant the system could not keep up when schools started testing. The biggest problem was that many schools could not log on to the state system at all, so their students could not take the writing exam as scheduled. In some cases, students were able to start testing but the system then crashed.
Stewart said some of the crashes were brief, and students could quickly restart the test. In other cases, the testing session could not be jump started. But in all cases, she added, students work was saved and when students resumed testing — even if it was the next day — their previous work was retrieved.
Really? Previous work was retrieved? And the next day? How are those tests not compromised? Those students had an extra 24 hours to prep after getting a glimpse. When asked about test validity, Stewart responded:
“It did not effect the ability for individuals to answer, and it did not affect the quality of the assessment,” Stewart answered. “We are certain that the content of the test is absolutely psychometrically valid and reliable.”
In her testimony she admits that some students restarted the test the next day on saved work. Not every district put the same kids on the computer after the Monday crash. She can’t possibly be so definitive about “ability for individuals to answer” and the “quality of the assessment.”
Has there ever been a more highfalutin assurance uttered in a public forum about testing than, “we are certain that the content of the test is absolutely psychometrically valid and reliable?”
There’s a chance that Stewart was just doing narrative control and needed to put the best face forward for a bunch of skeptical senators to get through one 24 hour news cycle. With the big districts returning to testing today, she’s put herself in the crosshairs. But this should never had been about one person. The politically fueled, dollar leveraged monster of high-staked testing creates days like this. Tragically, a dedicated long-time educator like Stewart is on the hot seat because she’s just obeying the marching orders from the powers that be.