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Nye schools working through SBAC test problems

Nye County School District officials are hoping to move beyond the problems related to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Nevada schools have been preparing for the online tests for several years, but only a small portion of the state’s 214,000 students have been tested.

The problems are attributed to computer glitches that freeze the computers and keyboards once the tests are administered.

Superintendent Dale Norton said on Tuesday that the district has been able to resume district-wide testing, with 75 percent of the elementary and middle school students completing the testing.

“This is being accomplished with minimal additional time taken away from the daily academic focus for students,” he said.

Rosemary Clarke Middle School Principal Tim Wombaker said he too is noticing improvements with the assessment consortium.

SBAC testing had a rough start but has since improved,” he said. “The kids and teachers are working very hard to complete the required testing. Our district staff has been on site to help alleviate any problems we have had and that is appreciated.”

Wombaker also said he’s noticed there are times throughout the day when the testing appears to proceed smoothly.

“We seem to have the most problems when Clark County is online due to their sheer number of participants,” Wombaker said. “We are staying upbeat and proactive and hope we have positive results. I want to thank the parents, students, Rosemary Clarke Middle School staff and the Nye County School District staff for their hard work and patience.”

Norton said the district recently received a letter from Nevada Deputy Superintendent Steve Canavero, urging patience until all of the computer glitches are worked out.

“Measured Progress notified the Nevada Department of Education that in certain school districts, that its capacity to deliver the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium could not meet the demand due to a spike in student participation,” Canavero stated. “Montana and North Dakota were also experiencing this issue.”

State Testing and Instructional Specialist Debbie Carle said the school district was to begin the testing March 15, but had to delay the exams for about two weeks.

“The northern schools and our Pahrump elementary schools started testing and we got through it but there were a few problems with having to use alternate student identification numbers instead of their regular student ID number,” she said.

The New Hampshire-based company Measured Progress was contracted to provide testing in Nevada, North Dakota and Montana in January, while the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium created the tests.

Carle said many of the problems associated with the testing can be attributed to the test provider.

“Not all of the tests were downloaded to all of the students, but we got through that and those were on the Measured Progress side,” she said. “On our side, when we were able to get in, the most problems were the computers freezing or keyboards freezing, but if their test was paused, and they logged back in, then they were able to resume.”

In a press release issued by Measured Progress on Friday, the company said they are working with affected school districts to fix the problems.

“We regret that schools in Nevada were unable to complete their Smarter Balanced online assessments over the past few days,” the letter stated. “We apologize for the frustration and inconvenience that students and educators experienced.”

The letter went on to say that the company is actively working with the state of Nevada on a plan to resolve the difficulties and improve the testing experience for all students.

“We continue to work with officials in Nevada to deliver Smarter Balanced online assessments,” the letter stated.

“We were ready,” Canavero said on Friday. “Our schools were ready, our teachers were ready. Everybody has been preparing for so long. It’s disappointing.”

Nevada paid $4 million for its online standardized tests.

State Superintendent Dale Erquiaga sent notices of contract breach to the test-maker Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and test-giver Measured Progress.

Erquiaga stated, in part, the ‘breach has caused undetermined damages, while noting the Nevada Department of Education reserves the rights to pursue all legal remedies to be made whole.’

Erquiaga gave both companies time to fix the problems and provide a fully functioning assessment package.

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