Alaska requests federal waiver for failing to complete K-12 assessments, blames KU Internet fiber cut
As I reported earlier this week, Kansas University says it's still tallying up costs from the great fiber cable cut of March 29, which shut down Internet and other KU-based websites for days across campus and beyond. Another place far, far beyond KU continues dealing with problems that it blames on KU and the fiber cut.
We already reported that the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development canceled all its computer-based testing for the rest of the school year and its contract with KU, making the announcement a few days after KU’s fiber cut and before problems had been fully repaired. (The KU-based Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) developed and administers official online state assessments for all Kansas and Alaska school districts, as well as tests for students with cognitive disabilities in more than a dozen other states.) As tests rely on KU-based servers that went down, the tests didn’t work correctly anywhere in the days following the cut.
A couple of Alaskan newspapers this week — including newsminer.com and adn.com — reported that the Alaska Department of Education is now asking the federal government to waive its standardized testing requirement for this year. Without a waiver, failing to meet the U.S. Department of Education's testing requirements can lead to the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding, reports said.
You can read the department’s full public notice about the waiver request online, here.
“Due to significant technology challenges, the state was not able to administer the required assessments in English language arts and mathematics to all students in grades 3-10 and in science to all students in grades 4, 8, and 10,” it says.
The statement said Alaska had problems with tests even before the fiber cut. It’s not very complimentary of KU’s service.
“Subsequent to the announcement of the cancellation of the tests on April 1, Alaska communicated multiple times with the testing service provider in an effort to find resolutions to the testing errors that had occurred,” the statement said. “Alaska was not able to resume testing because reasonable assurances that system errors were corrected were not provided by the testing service provider. There was insufficient evidence that Alaska students would have a high probability of successful testing. By the third week of May, when solutions for the testing errors still had not been adequately explained or determined and schools around the state were closing for summer break, it was no longer an option to administer the assessments during the 2015-2016 school year.”
Alaska called off its tests on a Friday, three days after the fiber cut. Kansas students resumed testing the following Monday, Kansas education officials said at the time, and besides the obvious inconvenience I’m not aware of any permanent problems here resulting from being temporarily offline.
KU’s CETE director said in early April that details of canceling the Alaska contract were still being worked out and while losing it would hurt CETE it would not be financially destructive to the center.
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The Associated Press this past weekend (seen here in USA Today) broke down a pretty big cheating scandal that unfolded over the course of 15 years in the South, involving the tests that prospective public-school teachers take to qualify for their jobs. Prosecutors say a longtime teacher made himself tens of thousands of dollars from teachers (one of whom, allegedly, was a former NFL wide receiver) who paid him to send a ringer to take their qualifying exams for them.
For the story, the AP pretty extensively quoted (and pictured) KU testing guru Neal Kingston. Kingston is the director of the KU Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, and he leads a $22 million project that sprang from what is now the second-largest grant in KU history (now ranking behind this one) that aims to produce new testing systems for elementary and secondary-school students.
Kingston told the AP that cheating on tests — among college students or people trying to qualify for jobs or licenses — is on the rise in general, perhaps helped by technology that allows ever-more ways to cheat.
"People often don't see it as something wrong," Kingston said.
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