Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 9

uted denial-of-service, or DDoS, attack. In addition to Tennessee, students in New York and
Mississippi were also affected.
Given past DDoS attacks during online
state assessments, Questar likely should have
been better prepared, said Levin. It's particularly concerning that the company was apparently running multiple state assessments
through the same "load balancing" server, creating a single point of failure when the traffic
surge occurred.
Why weren't such problems caught before
the live administration of the exams?
"That's the million-dollar question,"
Baumgartner said.
Questar's contract with the Tennessee education department is up for renewal this fall.
Sara Gast, the communications director for
the department, said officials anticipate "revisiting" the state's deal with the company.
In the meantime, Tennessee educators and
lawmakers are out of patience.
"Student and teacher morale has been hurt,
parents are increasingly upset, and the credibility of the entire testing system has been
severely damaged," said Jim Wrye, a spokesman for the Tennessee Education Association,
the state's largest teachers' union.
As the testing problems mounted, TEA members flooded state lawmakers with complaints.
The state legislature responded, quickly
passing measures designed to prevent 201718 TNReady results from resulting in adverse
consequences for those in the K-12 system.
Now, none of this year's test scores can be used:
* To assign a letter grade to a school under
the state's accountability system or to designate a school as low performing;
* To move a school into the state-run
Achievement School District; and
* To make decisions about hiring, firing, or
compensating any teacher.
In addition, Tennessee districts were given
discretion to determine the extent to which

enough that they can't focus on the
Even if children are only playing
Fortnite at home, it can still affect
their ability to participate at school.
Rebecca Young, a teacher at Stanley
Middle School in Lafayette, Calif.,
said students have been coming into
her class with unfinished homework
and bags under their eyes.
Some of her 7th graders, including a few top students, had lied to
their parents, saying they didn't
have any assignments, so that
they could have more time to play
Fortnite. Young said she sent notes
home to parents, and as a result,
some removed gaming systems
and other devices from their kids'
Schools and teachers should be
guiding parents when it comes to
appropriate limits around screen
time, said Kolb. Most parents will
appreciate research-based recommendations, such as turning off all
screens a set amount of time before
bed, she said.

Gaming Addiction and Violence
It's not entirely a player's fault
that they have a hard time stopping
the game. Kolb said video games
such as Fortnite are often designed
to encourage continuous play. When
a player dies in Fortnite, they can
begin a new game immediately. "You
always want to go back in," said
Kolb, "and do a better job next time."
And once a round begins, players

Across the country, the transition to administering state standardized tests via computer has at times been rocky. Schools have dealt with cyberattacks
and poor connectivity, unfamiliar interfaces and login problems, scoring errors and students getting booted from online-testing platforms. In recent years,
however, such troubles have generally been more episodic than systemic. During spring 2018, publicly reported online-testing problems occurred in:
Like Tennessee, the New York state education department contracts with a
company called Questar.
On April 11, the company was hit with an apparent cyberattack, causing
an "unacceptable failure" in New York, said state board of regents
Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and state education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia
in a statement.
Across the state, students had difficulty logging in and connecting to the
testing platform. According to Questar officials, 4,723 New York students
were initially unable to submit their test responses as a result of the
Minor connectivity issues and login problems delayed testing at three
Minnetonka schools late last month.
The state's assessment vendor is global education company Pearson. In
a statement, the company said its support teams responded to "sporadic
reports of connectivity issues at schools" and "quickly added additional
capacity, which immediately mitigated the issue."

Another state using Questar, Mississippi also experienced problems with
intermittent connectivity and some students being unable to submit online
tests this year.
All told, 47 of 144 districts were affected, and a total of 606 students in
the state experienced problems during a one-hour disruption, according to
a spokeswoman for the state education department.
Students across the Buckeye State had trouble logging in to state tests on
April 18. The issue was resolved later that day. State education officials
declined to detail how many students were affected.
Ohio contracts with the American Institutes for Research to administer its
statewide exams.
For the second time in three years, Tennessee experienced widespread
troubles with its online TNReady exams. The issues stemmed from a
number of separate problems and prompted new state legislation.

this year's test scores should be used to determine students' final grades.
"What we're doing is finding the best way to
hold everyone harmless, but to not have unintended consequences by doing more than we
should," said Smith, the state representative.

What's Next?
Even as state testing continues, the Tennessee education department has referred the
apparent cyberattack to the Davidson County
district attorney and investigators from both
the state and an undisclosed third party.
In addition, the department takes questions

can't pause the match. "If you have to
turn it off, you're losing a lot of work
you've put into it," said Sierra Filucci,
the executive editor of parenting content for Common Sense Media.
Young So, the junior at Castro Valley High, said he mostly plays on the
weekends with friends. But some of
his classmates play or watch Twitch
streams almost constantly, scheduling their days around releases of
new features in the game.
When Fortnite is designed to
draw players in, how can teachers
tell the difference between avid fans
and students who have developed
unhealthy gaming habits or even
If you have to take a student's
phone away, note their reaction,
said Kolb. If the student becomes
nervous, combative, or can't focus
afterward, that could be cause for
concern. Not wanting to engage with
activities or people outside of the
game are other warning signs. But
in general, said Kolb, simply loving
Fortnite doesn't mean a student is
on the road to gaming addiction.
"Compared to other shooting
games, Fortnite is pretty lightweight," said Filucci. The game features cartoon-style art and doesn't
show blood or gore. Players engage
in more strategy than shooting,
scavenging for supplies and building shelters. Still, she said, "the goal
of the game is to kill other players,
and there's no way around that."
(Common Sense's "Parents' Ultimate
Guide to Fornite" recommends that

about the validity of this year's TNReady results "very seriously," Gast said.
"We have provided guidance on how a school
can nullify the results for a student if they feel
the interruptions prevented him or her from
demonstrating their full understanding of the
standards," she said.
Department staff members are also helping
schools recover interrupted test sessions, and
they will be conducting numerous analyses to
make sure that any unusual score results are
As for applying for an ESSA waiver, Gast
said the department is "still discussing with
the U.S. Department of Education what we

only children ages 13 and older be
allowed to play Fortnite.)

Cooperation and Conflict
Still, parents and teachers
shouldn't worry that the violence in
the game itself will lead to violent
behavior in teenagers, said Kurt
Squire, a professor of social informatics at the University of California Irvine. "The research is pretty
well settled that there is no causal
link," he said. Fortnite's structure, in
which players track each other and
aim to be the last one standing, isn't
all that different from "traditional
types of kids' play," like tag or capture the flag, said Squire.
Games like Fortnite can even have
social benefits, said John Velez, an
assistant professor of journalism
and electronic media at Texas Tech
University. Velez, who studies the
positive effects of video games, has
found that playing violent games cooperatively with helpful teammates
promotes pro-social behavior.
Gameplay presents opportunities
for children to help each other in
pursuit of a shared goal, allowing
players to make choices like giving
a wounded teammate a bandage or
a healing potion. These acts "may
seem trivial," said Velez, but "for
gamers, it is meaningful."
But just as there are opportunities
for cooperation, there is also the potential for conflict.
In Young's middle school classroom, she overhears students argue

may need to submit to them," but remains
confident it will ultimately be in compliance
with the federal education law.
The reality is that Tennessee's onlinetesting mess has left everyone in a difficult
position, said Chad Aldeman, a principal at
Bellwether Education Partners, a consulting
"The state has not [made] stability a key
priority in their testing vendors," Aldeman
said, and as a result,Tennessee may need to
be "bailed out by the feds."
Assistant Editor Alyson Klein contributed reporting
to this article.

about leaving each other out of
matches or ignoring requests to join
another group's team.
Fortnite also has open voice chat
and messaging, exposing players to
messages from strangers that can
include profanity and name-calling,
said Filucci. (The game allows players to turn off the voice chat, but not
the text chat.)
Teachers can use Fortnite as an
opportunity to talk about cyberbullying and appropriate online conversations, said Kolb. Educators could
even put together a "talking toolkit"
for chats in the game to steer students away from unsportsmanlike
behavior, she said.
If Fortnite consumes students' interest and conversations, teachers
should find ways to address it in the
classroom, said Kolb. "We can't ignore
the play that is happening outside of
school, because that's their real world."

Embracing Students' Interests
Young led a class discussion about
the similarities between Fortnite
and dystopian fiction after her 7th
graders compared the game to The
Giver, a young adult novel they
were reading in class. Her students,
who are "completely enthralled with
dystopian novels," drew connections
between aspects of Fortnite-the
ominous sense of impending danger, the focus on individual survival-and themes of books like the
Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and
Divergent. Relating literature to

students' interests outside of school
in this way makes her lessons more
meaningful, said Young.
Chris Aviles, the coordinator of
innovation, technology, and 21st
century skills for the Fair Haven
Public Schools in New Jersey, wrote
"A Teacher's Guide to Surviving
Fortnite," an exploration of ways the
game can be used for instructional
purposes. The guide, posted to his
blog Teched Up Teacher, suggests
how to integrate the game into writing prompts, math lessons on probability, and physics.
Aviles doesn't advocate playing the game at school. There isn't
any educational value in letting
students engage in virtual combat
during a lesson, he said. Instead,
teachers can build a lesson around
one aspect of the game, such as having students calculate the best angle
of approach as they jump from the
"Battle Bus," the floating bus that
drops players onto the map at the
beginning of each match.
Though Aviles hasn't tested any
Fortnite lessons with his students
yet, he's used other digital games,
such as Minecraft, which is popular
in educational settings, in classes before. He's found that gaming can help
engage and motivate students who
otherwise exhibit behavior problems.
"Instead of fighting the tide of
change and culture, if you embrace
it and update what it is that you
taught last year and make it relevant and interesting, you just get
more out of your kids," he said.

EDUCATION WEEK | May 9, 2018 | | 9

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 9, 2018

Education Week - May 9, 2018
Schools Play Catch Up to Rise in Student Vaping
Teacher Strikes Show Power in Numbers
Educators Battling Class Distractions Of ‘Fortnite Game’
Ronald A. Wolk, Dies at 86; Launched Education Week
Report Roundup
News in Brief
Study: Language-Learning Ability Is Strong Until Late Teens
Tenn. Struggles to Clean Up Huge Online Testing Mess
Legalities and Politics Collide in Teacher Work Stoppages
Improvement Mode Woven Into ESSA Plans
Wide Swings Reported in Desegregation Data
Derek W. Black: Don’t Call the Teacher Pay Hikes a ‘Raise’
Sarah M. Stitzlein: Does School Choice Put Freedom Above Equity?
H. Richard Milner IV: The Emotional Drain of Teaching
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Lorena Garcia: The Case for Sex Sexuality Education
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Ronald A. Wolk, Dies at 86; Launched Education Week
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 2
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Contents
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - News in Brief
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 5
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Study: Language-Learning Ability Is Strong Until Late Teens
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 7
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Tenn. Struggles to Clean Up Huge Online Testing Mess
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 9
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Legalities and Politics Collide in Teacher Work Stoppages
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 11
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 12
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 13
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 14
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 15
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Improvement Mode Woven Into ESSA Plans
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Wide Swings Reported in Desegregation Data
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 18
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - 19
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Sarah M. Stitzlein: Does School Choice Put Freedom Above Equity?
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - H. Richard Milner IV: The Emotional Drain of Teaching
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - Lorena Garcia: The Case for Sex Sexuality Education
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - May 9, 2018 - CW4