Date: Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 4:00 PM
Subject: M-STEP and MI-Access Assessment Internet Disruptions
You are probably aware that there have been Internet disruptions for the past week, and these have negatively affected M-STEP and MI-Access testing. Online testing does not work if the network traffic does not get through. Issues have been intermittent. As you know, that makes troubleshooting difficult. Entire districts have had no problems, while others have had many. Problems may exist for a few students or a few minutes then disappear. This is an outline of the issues we are seeing and how we (the Michigan Department of Education) are pursuing them.
The potential problem most under your control is your local network. Some schools' disruptions have been caused by having wireless computers connect to the wrong access point or many to a single access point. Limiting non-testing traffic is also an option if your schools are reaching their bandwidth limits. Where convenient, wired connections are usually somewhat more reliable than wireless just because that is one thing fewer that can go wrong.
The general quality of Internet connections has been poor for the past week. Much of this is attributed to problems at Verizon, which is facing a strike. We are monitoring network issues using http://internethealthreport.com/ Verizon is frequently “in the red” for lost packets (4% or higher), but it is not the only ISP having trouble. We are also having DRC, the testing vendor, pursue network reliability with Level 3, their ISP.
The INSIGHT testing application is not as latency-tolerant as could be wished. This is compounded by any network issues. This has been added as a top issue for future programming, but it is unlikely that we can safely change INSIGHT that much while testing is ongoing.
Some districts have suggested shifting some testing away from the 9:00 AM testing time peak. That could help, but we are seeing packet loss “in the red” throughout the day, and we would not recommend schedule changes that would negatively affect other student activities. DRC servers have excess capacity for the testing volume we are seeing, so that is not a limiting factor.
“Try it again” is working surprisingly often. It will not help if the problem is close to your school, but if an intermediary system is losing or slowing traffic, you have a very good chance of getting a better connection on a second try, just like restarting a computer solves so many problems.
We are working with DRC every day to monitor and improve the system as much as possible. If you have feedback or better ideas of how to approach the issues we are seeing, please reach out to Pietro Semifero (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or John Price (email@example.com).