Aspire tests rescheduled due to system failure

Kate Janda, Staff Writer

As the Freshmen and Sophomores sat down yesterday morning, the dread of the inescapable Aspire test set into reality. However, what seemed to the test-takers like an act of God, the test failed to process in BSM’s systems. And it did again upon retrying multiple times. Apprehension was replaced by confusion, and the teachers grew agitated as other staff ran from class to class, attempting to fix the problem. Despite best efforts to keep the exam on-track, the test was soon called off.

The reactions to the cancellation were mixed; students were thankful, and teachers were irritated. However, the question on everyone’s mind was the one that couldn’t be answered: what had caused the test to fail on our laptops when it had worked with the Help Desk just that morning?

“I don’t know the exact cause [of the failure], but I am frustrated with the expense and the time and energy that goes into transferring activities that worked well with pencil and paper to digital computer formats, when in reality it proves to be unreliable,” says English teacher Anne Dominguez.

“It is not helpful to try find someone to blame. There were several factors that contributed to the event and we are working together to solve the problem going forward.”, says Stephen Pohlen. “It was a combination of how ACT has the system setup, and the sort of semi-complicated thing that we had to do with each computer. There were about 4 or 5 steps, and if you made a mistake, it became a lot harder. I myself messed up the first time I tried to do it. We thought if teachers could step people through one step at a time it would be okay, but it was more complicated than we previously expected.”

The administration knows little more than we do about the test failure than the Help Desk does, but Nicole Rassmussen believes the fault was the technology. “It was how the technology was set up, paired with the students not following specific instructions that were given to them. If kids clicked yes to update Java, ACT didn’t support the update and wouldn’t work anymore. But the machine failed due to human error.”

Although the exams were canceled yesterday, it in no way means that the freshmen and sophomores are exempt from them altogether. Ms. Rassmussen informs us that “yes, [the tests] are going to be rescheduled, but I don’t know when. That isn’t figured out exactly yet. The administration still has to talk with the tech guys, so its not set in stone yet.”

Although the system failure was a welcomed reprieve for the students, frustration is still evident among the staff. Dominguez expresses: “This experience has only created more work for the ACT Aspire clients and not for the company. College Board (the company that administers the test) tried to go the cheap route by making everything digital, which was inexpensive for them but is often complex and fraught with failure for the customer.”