States take on Common Core test makers as schools stop exams

LAS VEGAS — States are positioning themselves to hold the test makers accountable over the botched Common Core assessments, as it becomes more likely that some schools won’t be able to meet the federal testing mandate.

Nevada, Montana and North Dakota officials said they are discussing legal options with their state attorneys general given that schools closing down as early as mid-May for summer break have decided to pull the plug on the test.

The logistical nightmare started with a widespread system crash last week that halted testing with New Hampshire-based Measured Progress. The company is contracted to administer the tests linked to hotly disputed, federally backed education standards.

The technical problems continue to plague Nevada but have largely been fixed in Montana and North Dakota, officials said.

Las Vegas-based Clark County School District, which serves more than half of Nevada students, said Thursday that it was suspending testing indefinitely for the computerized English language arts and math exams for selected grades.

It is believed to be the largest single school system in the country to reject the mandatory test.

The country’s fifth largest school district said it’s pulling itself out of the daily diagnostics and won’t return to the assessment with its 150,000 testing students until a “cure” is confirmed. The district is now tapping into a state statute offering a pass for districts that can show at least two test attempts at each school.

More than two dozen Montana school districts have also chosen to opt out with the state’s waiver.

North Dakota also offered schools the option to document attempts in lieu of test results but it’s not yet known how many districts will finish the test.

Also unknown are the possible consequences for schools that can’t meet the federal mandate to test at least 95 percent of students, which is tied to millions in funding. The U.S. Department of Education has said there are no exceptions but that the problem is unprecedented, as money has never been withheld over standardized testing participation compliance.

Montana said it may require the test makers to reimburse the state for any future funding lost. A portion of the state’s $40 million in federal funds is tied to the testing requirement.

“My goal is to hold schools harmless in this entire scenario,” said Denise Juneau, Montana’s state superintendent.

Nevada has also filed breach of contract notices with Measured Progress and the test creator, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The agreements cost the state about $2.7 million and $1.3 million, respectively, and both groups have weeks to rectify the issue, per its contracts.

Measured Progress apologized in a statement that read, in part: “Assessing this many students online at once throughout the country on an open-source platform is new and unprecedented, and there were bound to be some initial challenges.”

Meanwhile, the American Institutes for Research is defending and aiding Measured Progress with the tech problem. The institute created the initial coding framework for the troubled test and is the assessment provider in other states.

“The deployment of any system like this is not like installing an app on your iPhone. They’re super complex and require a great deal of skill, not just to deploy but to support and maintain,” said Jon Cohen, the institute’s president of assessment.


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