Las Vegas Sun

February 19, 2019

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CCSD halts testing indefinitely after repeated glitches

magnet school

L.E. Baskow

The SBAC is an adaptive test, meaning it becomes more or less difficult depending on a student’s answers.

Clark County will stop standardized testing until technical problems that have plagued the process since last week are fixed.

CCSD briefly resumed testing today after repeatedly postponing it due to server issues with state-contracted testing company Measured Progress. They immediately encountered problems again and have refused to test students until the company can present a fix that has been vetted by the state Attorney General as well as the Nevada Department of Education.

"As of today, the vendor(s) have yet to resolve the systemic challenges that appeared earlier this month and we have yet to receive the necessary assurances that our vendors are able to sustain the scale of our district," the district said in a statement.

The news caps off yet another day of problems with the state rollout of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, a new computerized test designed to assess third- through eighth-graders' proficiency in Common Core reading and math standards.

Problems began last Tuesday and are believed to be due to Measured Progress' inability to handle the sheer number of students logging into their servers at the same time. The New Hampshire-based company has been paid to administer Nevada's state tests for more than 10 years. Students in Montana and North Dakota, other states contracted with Measured Progress, have experienced the same problems.

CCSD officials say they are flummoxed, not least because school districts in the state participated in stress tests last year designed to avoid these exact problems.

"We spent three years preparing our district for this," said Leslie Arnold, CCSD assistant superintendent in charge of testing. "It's clearly a Measured Progress issue."

Arnold said CCSD had no reason to believe schools would encounter technical problems on this scale, but said they wouldn't force teachers and students to keep attempting the frustrating task of trying — and failing — to take the test.

The move by the district to stop testing completely puts the ball back in the court of Measured Progress, which has found itself in hot water due to the problems. State superintendent Dale Erquiaga has said he is exploring legal action against the company, though he has stopped short of giving specifics.

This year Measured Progress received nearly $3 million from the state to administer the SBAC test.

It's not yet clear how the problems will affect federal education funding. At least 95 percent of state students are required by the federal government to take the tests, but that number will almost certainly be lower in Nevada after the testing window expires June 12.

Erquiaga and the NDE said they are communicating with the U.S. Department of Education about the matter and said they are confident the state has done everything it can.

The same can't be said about the state's accountability system, which relies on data collected during testing. With so many students unable to take the test, the state will likely not have the baseline data it uses for things like star-ratings and performance tracking for schools.

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