AIR Servers Crash Preventing MN from Testing Students

Uh-oh, don’t look now Utah, but our $39 million contract with AIR ( to do computer adaptive testing on our students just hit a snag. In spite of the fact the USOE told the legislature that AIR was the ONLY VENDOR FULLY PREPARED to handle the computer adaptive testing for Utah schools, it appears that assessment was short-lived and shortsighted.

From the Pioneer Press Twin Cities news comes this article, “Computer crash derails math assessment exams for Minnesota students.”

Thousands of students across Minnesota could not take the online state math assessment they spent much of the school year preparing for because of a technology failure Tuesday, April 16.

A computer problem at testing contractor American Institutes of Research, or AIR, prevented students from beginning or completing the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments online, said Charlene Briner, chief of staff for the Minnesota Department of Education.

“It is unfortunate, and it is unacceptable to us,” said Briner, who said the problem was with AIR, the state’s vendor, and not “school infrastructure.”

Jon Cohen, director of assessment for AIR, said servers that process tests experienced two “slowdowns” Tuesday morning as 15,000 students tried to access the system.

Evelyn Belton-Kocher, director of testing, research and assessment for St. Paul, said the difficulties are an example of online testing’s challenges.

“If you don’t have a highly-reliable system, you put a lot more stress on your most vulnerable kids,” Belton-Kocher said. “It’s not a level playing field.”

Robert Schaeffer, spokesman for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, said the problems Minnesota students and teachers experienced are common when states try to administer standardized test online on a large scale. States have seen repeated problems with programming, infrastructure and the capacity of systems used to administer the tests.

“The assumption is the technology is infallible,” Shaeffer said, adding that contractors make performance promises they can’t keep. “You shouldn’t contract based on promises. You should contract, especially with taxpayer money, based on performance.”

Lets see…15,000 students access the assessments and crash the servers. I think I have to agree with Shaeffer. Utah shouldn’t contract based on promises but based on performance.

If you don’t know much about AIR, they are the official partner of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium which legislators helped pressure the state school board and USOE to drop all affiliations with. If you don’t know much about AIR, please check out these two articles.

This article by Alpine School District board member Brian Halladay, briefly summarizes hours of research on AIR and SAGE and how they are involved in testing behavior, not education.

This article by Tiffany Mouritsen exposes the extreme agenda that AIR supports and has written extensively about on their website including social justice and LGBT. Why can’t Utah find an assessment partner to support that doesn’t spend money on tearing down the moral fabric of society that we value?

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