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Broken Arrow superintendent questions state superintendent over testing

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 7/09/2013 5:37 pm Published: 7/09/2013 4:34 pm

A new move in the ongoing feud between the state and local superintendents.

On Tuesday, Jarod Mendenhall, the superintendent of Broken Arrow schools, released a strongly worded letter he sent to State Superintendent Janet Barresi.

She blamed the districts for all of the problems on last year's state standardized testing and Mendenhall has a different view.

Part of the letter Mendenhall said Broken Arrow Schools have top-notch technology and Internet access and still had 1,300 students' tests disrupted and close to 140 invalidated.

"Didn't know where she was getting the information, but it was incorrect for Broken Arrow," he said.

Mendenhall said his IT department confirmed the testing problem was not on the district's end.

"Many of them were kicked off four or five different times throughout the testing window during that time. So, they would literally have to start over on the test," he said.

In the letter, he also questioned why Barresi would renew the contract with the company that administered the test: CTB/McGraw Hill.

"If I had problems with a vendor, I wouldn't renew their contract. I was shocked that we were using a company that didn't seem prepared," he said.

Wendy Hardwick has three kids in BA schools and has been following the conflict with the state Department of Education closely.

"They don't seem to want to listen the administrators, teachers or parents," she said.

In his letter, Mendenhall also addressed Barresi's recent announcement that in two years she wants Oklahoma to start using its own standardized test, not the one we share with other states.

He's worried about that new test since teachers' jobs and students' ability to graduate rests on doing well on them.

"If we're gonna do reforms and do the reforms correctly, we need to get it right," he said.

FOX23 has been working on getting a response to Mendenhall's letter from Barresi or someone in her office. They have not gotten in contact with us yet.

Barresi sent the following statement to FOX23 when asked about the letter:

As we move forward in Oklahoma to prepare for online assessments across the board and digital learning, of the 520 school districts, all are at different levels of readiness. There is also a mix of rural, suburban and urban districts.

In February we conducted speed tests to measure bandwidth at our schools. It was a voluntary survey and 93 percent of our schools responded. What we discovered is that in Oklahoma only 28 percent of districts would have been prepared to administer the PARCC assessments in 2014-15. There are also issues with the number of devices available. In some cases there is only one device per every five students.

While some superintendents are disappointed in our assertion that some of the spring testing issues were at the school level, we ask them to understand that we have 520 school districts. Many districts are better prepared for learning in the digital age than others, but we have many districts that are not.

Outside the two days when CTB/McGraw-Hill had server issues, we did have several schools working with CTB because as students would answer questions, it would take their computers a long time for the answers to process or their computers would time out and lose the connection. This is an issue with bandwidth.

Now that Superintendent Barresi has made the decision to develop local state assessments, we need to ensure that these assessments meet the same level of rigor that the PARCC assessments would have and still allow all districts to complete the assessments.

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