theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

July 30, 2013

Barresi: Settlement will benefit both students, teachers

Eric Swanson Staff Writer adanewsreporter@cableone.net
www.theadanews.com

Ada — Oklahoma teachers and students will see the greatest benefit from the state’s settlement with testing vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill, which covers the damages they suffered when server crashes disrupted student testing last spring.

That was the view of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, who announced Thursday that the Oklahoma Department of Education has negotiated a settlement worth more than $1.2 million with CTB/McGraw-Hill.

“Our teachers and students suffered the most during the testing disruptions, and I wanted them to benefit the most,” Barresi said in a news release. “We’ve accomplished that.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt wanted to study the settlement agreement, so the Department of Education will send the agreement to him for review before it takes effect.

CTB/McGraw-Hill spokesman Brian Belardi did not immediately respond Friday to a voice mail message seeking comment.

 

Damages

The settlement is the latest development in a story that began in late April, when CTB/McGraw-Hill’s online testing system crashed for two days. The crash forced students — some of whom were taking high-stakes tests required for graduation — to either wait for hours or give up on their exams.

State Department officials later sought damages against the vendor, resulting in the settlement agreement announced Thursday.

The settlement includes a cash payment of just $367,205, which will be distributed to school districts to cover their extra staffing costs linked to the server crash, according to the news release. Under the agreement, CTB/McGraw-Hill will provide instructional support, teacher training and other services valued at about $871,000.

Those services include:

• Training to help teachers learn more about the type of questions that will appear on English and math tests. Cost: $13,000.

• Voluntary tests, which can be given twice a year, aimed at helping teachers measure second-graders’ achievements. Cost $678,400.

• Voluntary tests to help teachers measure student achievement among third- through 11th-graders. Cost: $6,600.

• An independent study to evaluate how the testing disruptions affected student test scores. Cost: $48,000.

The national company Human Resources Research Organization, which has experience in analyzing testing disruptions, is conducting the study, according to the news release. The company is expected to release its findings by late August.

• A study to determine whether all Oklahoma school districts have the technology they need for the next round of online testing. Cost: $125,000.

Before the testing begins, CTB/McGraw-Hill will examine bandwidth specifications for each district and look at the number of work stations, server configures and other issues. The company will also perform online stress tests, train school officials and set up a forum for discussing technology issues with each district.

The study is aimed at helping state education officials decide which districts may need to make special arrangements for students taking online tests.

Barresi said she was pleased with the settlement.

“I was outraged over the disruptions during the two-day period,” she said, referring to the April 29-30 server crash. “I announced that we would seek damages to the full extent of the contract, and we took an aggressive stance. The settlement agreement amounts to three times the value of damages defined in the contract.”

Barresi also announced Thursday that the state has renewed its standardized-testing contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill for the coming year. The announcement came during a meeting of the state education board.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Oklahoma contributed to this report.