The Big Walnut Board of Education on Thursday discussed the issues surrounding the inability of districts across the state to access online tests that were to be administered Wednesday morning.

“I wanted to make you aware of an important update about state testing for 3rd and 4th grade students,” wrote Matt Cox, principal of Hylen Souders Elementary School, in a message that was sent to parents across the district. “Unfortunately, the state encountered issues with their online testing system today (April 18) that impacted students across the state. We just received a message the problem has been addressed and we should be able to resume testing Thursday morning.”

“It’s been a long couple of days,” added Director of Academic Achievement Jen Young. “If there is a positive, it affected everyone across the state.”

At first, teachers thought some students were just having trouble accessing the tests, but it became apparent the problem was more widespread. To compound the issue, one school had a fire alarm, and the time away from the computers booted students off.

Young said she didn’t know what the problem was: “They just said there was a technical difficulty.” However, she was concerned that the delay might result in lower test scores.

Another factor that might impact test scores is what she called “roboscoring.” For example, essay questions are now judged by a computer instead of graded by a human. Students are often taught to repeat the question in their response. Yet, the formula used for scoring the test is weighted so that if a student repeats 70 percent of the question, they will automatically get a zero on the essay.

Board member Allison Fagan asked if there was an appeal process, and BOE President Andy Wecker said he was worried the state is using the tests as an end instead of as a tool to measure student progress.

Also at the meeting, Doug Swartz, a facility advisor for the district, discussed security improvements for the district’s vestibules. Board members were concerned that there was no bulletproof glass being used, but they were told it would increase the cost.

As part of its regular business, the board unanimously approved the 2019 tax budget for the Community Library in Sunbury. Executive Director Chauncey Montgomery said there has been an 8 percent increase in circulation; visits are up 30 percent; and numbers are up in all categories, particularly e-books.

“Business is booming, and without your support, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Montgomery said.

In other business, the board unanimously approved a two-year contract beginning Aug. 1 for Gary Hankins to be the new principal at Big Walnut Intermediate School.

The high school prom is April 28 at Villa Milano in Westerville. Junior John Elliott, who was the student representative on the board in place of Jacob Troyer, said he loved the prom. Board member Mindy Meyer perhaps best summed up the board’s sentiments by urging students to “stay safe and finish strong.”

By Gary Budzak

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.