Hacking of Pearson shows testing flaws

by Keelia Moeller

Last week, the annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, were disrupted by computer glitches and intentional attacks on the exam provider’s system. 
Minnesota currently has a $38 million, three-year contract with Pearson to administer annual online performance tests in math, science and reading to students from third grade to high school. These tests are designed to measure the academic comprehension of students as they learn. 
But Pearson’s performance has not been entirely up to par, especially for the paycheck that Minnesotans are giving the company. Students had problems logging into the system this testing season. At first, the company saw this as a server failure, indicating that the system had shut down because it was overwhelmed by the amount of students logging in. 
But this was not the issue. On Tuesday, the company found out someone on the outside had attacked the system, attempting to disrupt and overwhelm it. 
As of now, Pearson believes its problems are solved, and the company is confident this will not happen again. The outside attacker has yet to be caught, but Pearson has not been held accountable by Minnesota.
Pearson’s lack of accountability for its own mistakes is concerning. One would think that a system containing the personal information of so many Minnesotan children would have impenetrable security. 
It would be an understatement to say that we are not getting our money’s worth. 
Pearson’s system has already failed once. Although no student information was taken, the system was hacked. The testing process was also delayed.
Moreover, MCA testing has not been proven to be entirely effective. As yet another standardized test, the MCA groups an entire year of learning into a few brief questions, which may not represent everything else the students have learned in their classrooms. 
The standardized testing process also places pressure upon students and teachers to memorize or teach only the information that will be on the tests themselves, leading them to disregard the need for deeper understanding. 
Testing bias is another problem that exists in standardized testing — there is simply no way to guarantee that all students are going into their tests with the same amount of cultural knowledge. 
I believe standardized tests are inaccurate measures of academic comprehension. The results are just a reflection of students and teachers scrambling to memorize the selected information that will be on the tests.
Removing standardized tests from Minnesota would be ideal, but it may not be realistic. If we must keep the MCAs going, we should not pay Pearson for its comprehension tests. The company has already proven its system to be faulty, and no one can say the same thing won’t happen again.