Pam Stewart, FLDOE Are Keeping the Truth From Floridians on FSA Collapse

From an anonymous Florida teacher:

Today I got to see the frustration and anger on a kids face. She had finished her essay and was ready to submit, but there wasn’t a submit button. The test was saved and then paused. Moved to another computer. Logged in and …. Nothing. All her work was gone. Case opened with FSA. The young lady was really angry. Who could blame her? She refused to “rewrite the essay” or even “submit the test” which was now blank. This is where testing has gone too far. How many students have had to deal with this statewide?

Despite what Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is testifying for state legislators, there are other stories just like that. From Orlando Sentinel reporter Leslie Postal:

Florida’s new online testing system lost the writing exams of more than 300 Central Florida students who took the test this month. Most of the essays have since been recovered, but about 50 remain missing.

The number of still-lost tests represents a tiny fraction of the writing exams taken by more than 104,000 eighth, ninth and 10th graders in the five Central Florida school districts in the past two weeks.

The anecdote at the beginning of this post involves a student in another part of the state outside of Postal’s reporting. There are likely to be more reports forthcoming. Stewart needs to amend the testimony she provided to March 4. From another Postal story:

“What happened? That’s what people want to know,” asked Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.

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.

Obviously, there is a number of Florida students who previous work was not retrieved. Yet a spin of the numbers continues from Stewart’s DOE. Consider this Miami Herald story from Kathleen McGrory and Christina Veiga which appeared yesterday:

Despite concerns echoed by parents, teachers, superintendents and outside academics, the department has refused to say whether it will follow the path of other states that have analyze results to determine if student scores were affected by similar technical problems.’

“The test was not hacked as the attackers never gained access. Since student responses were not accessed, there is no reason not to use the test results,” Meghan Collins, the department’s communications director, wrote in an email.

Collins repeatedly responded to questions about the validity of the tests by saying only that the department was “proud” that 90 percent of students had successfully taken the writing portions of the new assessments as of Friday.

What Stewart, Collins or whomever is speaking on behalf of the FLDOE aren’t addressing is anything about the other 10 percent. Some of those are kids who tests were lost.  Stewart’s FLDOE clearly doesn’t want to talk about them, and their artful omission furthermore leaves the impression that they would rather Floridians not know either.




About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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