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As California standardized testing gains steam, help center 'inundated' with teacher calls

Students type on computers.
Students type on computers.
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It's week three for California’s new web-based standardized tests and some schools are reporting hair-pulling moments.

“Our students are becoming frustrated,” said Bonnie Tanaka, principal of Madrid Middle School in El Monte. She said screens are freezing up, and  - unlike what was promised - tests don’t resume where a student’s left off after a break, and students can’t review previous answers.

“So they are not putting in as much effort as they did" under the former, multiple-choice pencil-and-paper state tests, she said.

At some Los Angeles Unified schools, the problem was the computers and networks themselves, not the testing web site, some teachers said.

“The iPads sent by the district most didn’t work,” said Marc Graff, a fifth grade teacher at Pomelo Community Charter School. “We couldn’t even use them as part of testing.”

Everything about the test is new: new Common Core standards, new online portal and, for those using tablets, even new devices to test on.

Many schools are sending an SOS to the California Department of Education.

“Our testing contractor hosts a help desk and that help desk has been inundated with calls,” said Cindy Kazanis, director of the department's data division.

Last week, the help desk received an average of 637 calls each day from teachers asking for help with the new test, she said. Most were for basic problems setting up the tests.

“Often times the frequently asked question is, well, I forgot my password so how do I reset my password,” she said.

State and local school officials are downplaying glitches.

They point out that testing problems won't hurt kids. The state won’t officially record test results this year, and students are only taking half of the math and English tests. This year is a "field test", a measure of whether the massive tech upgrade will work.

The whole point, they said, is to find problems and fix them for next year.

The testing window runs through June.

At the Moreno Valley Unified School District, testing began this week.

“Amazingly, it’s going really good,” Assistant Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora said.

His district began testing about 4,000 students this week. Next week they'll go up to about 20,000.

“That’ll be interesting to see,” he said.