LAS VEGAS — Nevada was confident enough in the partial student results from its Common Core-aligned state test that it released them this week, even though 7 of 10 students weren’t tested because of computer glitches.
North Dakota released results last month. But Montana says it won’t decide what to do with its test results until it can be sure the scores are valid.
The varying actions are part of the ongoing fallout from the meltdown last spring with the federally mandated, annual testing process. The testing is tied to funding. And it isn’t the first time states have had to deal with compromised test results from a system that is supposed to be standardized, allowing easy year to year and state to state comparison.
Last school year was the first time students in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota, among others, would take a state test on a computer with questions adapting in difficulty based on student answers. But the test maker, Measured Progress, showed signs of problems and testing had to be halted completely in April when the system became overloaded.
Now, the states are waiting to see if the limited test results that they have are valid. An independent study commissioned by the content creator, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, will analyze how scores may have been affected by the glitches, which included screens that stalled and questions that didn’t display properly. Those findings are not expected until early 2016.
In the meantime, Nevada and North Dakota state superintendents say they released student scores because they have enough confidence in the results.
Nevada shared its results Wednesday but cautioned they were for informational purposes only, given that it only includes a third of the state’s students who completed the exam. The scores came mostly from northern and rural Nevada, as most of the Las Vegas-based Clark County School District couldn’t even log in. The fifth-largest school district in the country has already decided it won’t release the individual scores to students and parents as districts typically do.
Steve Canavero, interim Nevada superintendent, said it’s transparent to give the results out and it honors the work of teachers and students. He said districts wanted the data even if parents might be unable to appreciate the findings.
“We invested a lot of time and a lot of energy. To have it fundamentally fail and not provide any return to the field, I felt was not acceptable,” he said.
David Flatt, president of the Nevada Parent Teacher Association, said the move will ultimately benefit the smaller districts outside of southern Nevada that didn’t experience technical problems.
North Dakota had fewer problems and released scores to school districts last month. Over 98 percent of students were ultimately able to test after the initial system outage, State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said.
But Montana won’t release results before the validity question is answered. About 82 percent of its students took the test after Montana offered a waiver to any school that couldn’t or wouldn’t finish testing.
“It’s really important for us to be careful and thoughtful and making sure what we release has context and makes sense for parents and teachers,” said Emilie Ritter Saunders, spokeswoman for the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
Nevada is also asking for a rare exemption from the U.S. Department of Education on its mandate requiring at least 95 percent of students to participate in an annual statewide test. Nevada, like most states, adopted the Common Core standards, something critics have railed against as tantamount to federal overreach.
In past years Wyoming and Kansas were granted waivers when their testing was so compromised that they didn’t use their scores, even though all students finished the test.
Results from Wyoming’s 2010 test were ultimately released to districts. But no statewide summary was ever recorded and the then-superintendent remained skeptical of its accuracy after the system had technical problems.
In 2014, Kansas experienced a cyberattack that threw test results into question. Its test maker determined that it would be impossible to verify its validity, so no result reports were ever created. Officials also agreed that it would be unfair for some students to have scores but not others, and irresponsible to offer student results it couldn’t be sure of.
“It could possibly hurt the student if they were to be given information that was not valid,” said Denise Kahler, spokeswoman for the Kansas State Department of Education.