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Few ‘bumps in the road’ at start of state testing season, education official says

Few ‘bumps in the road’ at start of state testing season, education official says
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State testing season got off to a smooth start in Nebraska public schools last week under a new contractor, a state official said.

It wasn’t without “bumps in the road,” however, according to Valorie Foy, director of assessment for the Nebraska Department of Education.

Some schools reported that students had trouble accessing the computer testing program Monday, the first day of the seven-week testing window. That issue involved the tickets students use to log in and access the tests in the new Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System.

The problem was resolved the same day and didn’t involve a large number of students, Foy said.

Testing volume was light last week, normal for the first week, she said.

State officials will be watching closely the performance of the system in the next three weeks, typically the heaviest weeks of testing.

“We’ll know a lot at the end of weeks two, three and four,” she said Friday.

In the Omaha Public Schools, students began testing last week. Initial reports are that it went smoothly, according to spokeswoman Monique Farmer.

Bennington Public Schools reported no problems. Bellevue Public Schools, apart from last Monday’s issues, reported “so far, so good,” according to spokeswoman Amanda Oliver.

Some larger districts, including Millard Public Schools and Elkhorn Public Schools, were on spring break last week.

Nebraska hired a new testing contractor last year, aiming to deploy a more reliable system and make use of innovative tests. Under the previous contractor, the system suffered from repeated computer glitches.

Last spring, the board contracted with Northwest Evaluation Association of Portland, Oregon, to provide the NSCAS for elementary and middle school.

The Portland company got $6.4 million to provide this year’s assessments. The contract is renewable annually for a total of $29.1 million over five years.

The assessments are administered in grades three through eight in English language arts and math, and grades five and eight in science.

The new NSCAS test makes use of computer-adaptive questions in math and English language arts — a first for state testing.

During testing, the computer will adjust the difficulty based on a student’s answers. Adaptive testing more quickly and accurately pinpoints whether students have mastered state standards.

Federal and Nebraska law require testing for accountability purposes.

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