Archive for Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Kansas holds off on renewal of student testing contract after problems

April 19, 2017, 12:52 p.m. Updated April 19, 2017, 1:16 p.m.

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— Kansas education officials are holding off on renewing a contract with the state's student assessment provider after the latest delays caused by technical problems.

State Education Commissioner Randy Watson told state school board members Tuesday that there are "many other options" for delivering the test and that officials "want things to be reliable," The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Following Watson's recommendation, board members pulled the renewal of the $6.2 million contract with the University of Kansas' Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation from the agenda. Watson said the state wants to see what happens with the rest of the testing cycle before deciding whether requests for proposals will be sent out for other testing vendors.

This year's technical issues began April 4 when 15,000 students were taking the assessments simultaneously. Changes were made the next day to fix the glitches that were causing delays, said Neal Kingston, director of the university's Achievement and Assessment Institute, which oversees the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation. He said no problems were reported April 6 when an estimated 17,000 users were on the testing platform at the same time.

Testing problems also have occurred in the past, mostly recently last year when a fiber cable was cut in Lawrence. At the time, the center was offering general end-of-year assessments for students in Kansas and Alaska, as well as testing for students with significant cognitive disabilities in those states and more than a dozen others. Alaska decided to scrap its state tests for the year as a result.

In 2014, Kansas tossed its test results because of cyberattacks and other technical issues.

Board member Sally Cauble, R-Liberal, said the situation was "frustrating for our schools, it is frustrating for our students," especially not knowing whether any of the students' test answers had been lost because of the server issues.

Denise Kahler, the spokeswoman for the Kansas State Department of Education, said Watson is likely to present options to board members in June, adding that "there are several large testing companies serving other states."

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