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Backhoe in Kansas Disrupts State Testing in Alaska

April 27, 2016

You read it right.

Alaska state testing was killed by a Kansas backhoe.

Alaska contracts with the University of Kansas’ Center for Educational Testing (CETE) for its state exams– but it looks like this will be the last year for that contract.

Alaska’s interim education commissioner, Susan McCauley, said that the state had already decided in February to shop for another vendor for its state tests.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, March 29, 2016, a worker operating a backhoe at University of Kansas cut a principal fiber optic cable connected to the CETE testing server– a cable that happened to be critical in delivering state testing for Alaska.

CETE serves Kansas as well as the testing of students with cognitive disabilities in 14 other states. CETE’s server was up for Wednesday, March 30, then giving trouble again on Thursday, March 31, and Friday, April 01.

On April 01, 2016, CETE tweeted, “We are down again and recommend no testing today. For additional information and updates: or .”

On Monday, April 04, 2016, CETE tweeted the following:

CETE Media ‏@CETEmedia Apr 4

12,000 students are simultaneously testing this morning with no issues. Thanks for your patience during service interruption last week.

CETE Media ‏@CETEmedia Apr 4

Based on the work that has been done this weekend, KITE indicates a go-ahead for schools to resume testing. Info: View conversation

CETE Media ‏@CETEmedia Apr 4

Our team worked throughout the weekend running diagnostics & making adjustments to the system to help ensure a strong testing environment.

However, by April 04, 2016, Alaska had called it quits on its 2016 standardized testing. McCauley noted that even though the federal government requires standardized testing to be administered as a condition for Title I funding, the federal stipulation is that the tests are to be reliable and valid. Given the chaos introduced by Kansas backhoe and exacerbated by CETE’s bungled efforts to resolve the issue smoothly, McCauley believes that test reliability and validity have been compromised.

For more on this story, read this WTOL news brief, this Washington Post article, and this Westport News article, as well as CETE’s Twitter page.

And for prices on backhoes, check out



Coming June 2016 from TC Press:


school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Harlan Underhill permalink

    Ho, ho, ho.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    McCauley believes that test reliability and validity have been compromised…. as if these tests were valid for the many uses of the test scores they produce.

  3. Mercedes – As a statistician, can you write a piece on validity and reliability and all the facts and circumstances that render our state assessments as invalid and unreliable especially in light of their high stakes application? How would this defense against testing hold up in a court of law?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: How a Backhoe in Kansas Canceled Testing in Alaska | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Ed News, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 Edition | tigersteach

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