ALBANY, N.Y. April 11, 2018 — New York State United Teachers said that today’s widespread technology failures raise serious questions about the speed — and wisdom — of the State Education Department’s rush into computer-based testing.
NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said the union is being flooded with reports from teachers detailing disastrous system crashes; log-in failures and nonsensical answers for questions on the English Language Arts tests in grades 3-8. Teachers in Victor, Saranac Lake and Spencerport, for example, said some schools were unable to administer the computer-based tests properly because of technological failures. In at least one fourth-grade class in the Capital Region, students’ entire tests were wiped out by malfunctioning computers. In Yonkers, some students “lost” their tests, while others attempting to answer multiple choice questions reportedly could only choose between four answers — all of which said “system error.”
NYSUT has been raising questions about computer testing for months, and just this week challenged the fairness and accuracy of the benchmarks that SED uses to establish proficiency levels.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango said, “If children are going to sit for state standardized tests and are prepared to do their very best, the State Education Department must be able to guarantee that the tests are fair and accurate, and they don’t leave kids anxious and rattled.
“Today’s disastrous foray into computer testing left children frustrated and teachers angry that their warnings were ignored,” she added. “If SED wants to restore the trust and confidence of parents in its testing system, this isn’t the way to do it.”
After a data breach earlier this year, NYSUT wrote a detailed letter to the State Education Department and Board of Regents, calling on them to put the brakes on computer-based testing (PDF). NYSUT has been expressing concerns about inequity for low-wealth districts; a lack of infrastructure and poor Internet capability in some schools, and whether computer-based testing accurately measures student learning — or just how well students can maneuver around a keyboard.
DiBrango said educators are saying, “SED must slow down and get it right.”
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.