Group studying computer glitches on state testing

Published 10:27 am Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ST. PAUL — State education officials are awaiting a report expected in July on whether repeated computer problems hurt student scores this spring as they took the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.

While many educators have called upon lawmakers to allow school districts to set aside the results, standardized test supports have urged them to wait for the analysis before making a decision about the impact of the testing glitches.

Brenda Cassellius, state education commissioner, has said she won’t take any action until the scores are analyzed.

It’s unlikely the scores will be set aside, but some districts may not use them in teacher evaluations.

Federal law requires states to report test scores to the U.S. Department of Education, and Minnesota would face financial penalties if it doesn’t comply, according to Kevin McHenry, assistant education commissioner.

Scores from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments are used by the state in its Multiple Measurement Rating accountability system, which grades schools on students’ achievement, academic growth, graduation rate and schools’ success closing the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their peers.

School districts can decide if they want to omit problematic test scores from their teacher evaluations, which are under local control, McHenry said.

The Human Resources Research Organization is conducting the study for the state Department of Education. The organization concluded in 2013 that similar computer problems with online tests didn’t have a significant impact on students’ test results.

The new analysis was ordered in the education and policy bill passed by lawmakers June 12 in a special legislative session.

Minnesota’s education officials are considering whether to seek financial penalties against Pearson, the provider that has a $38 million contract with the state, due to ongoing problems with testing.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he wants to significantly reduce the number of standardized tests students are required to take, proposing about one-third of federal and state tests be eliminated.