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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Minn. school testing system has more problems

  • Problems were reported in the Twin Cities area and other parts of Minnesota.
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  • Minnesota students continued to experience technical problems this week while taking exams via the new statewide online proficiency testing system.
    Several school districts reported Tuesday that students experienced long waits to receive test questions sent through the online portal, including students who were taking the high-stakes Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, which measures whether students meet academic benchmarks.
    Nearly 50 districts had trouble with the testing system Tuesday, Charlene Briner, chief of staff of the Minnesota Department of Education, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press for a story published Wednesday (http://bit.ly/13uxA1A ). Last week, the department temporarily suspended MCA testing after the company paid to operate the system, the American Institutes for Research, or AIR, had problems with servers that delayed or interrupted thousands of students' tests.
    It wasn't immediately clear what caused Tuesday's slowdown, but AIR representative Jon Cohen said it wasn't a problem with the company's computer system. It was also unclear how many students were affected.
    "We are unwilling to speculate," Briner said. "Whether it's 8,000 students, 800 students or eight students, this kind of disruption and uncertainty is unacceptable."
    Problems were reported in the Twin Cities area and other parts of Minnesota. Among those reporting difficulties were the state's four largest districts: Anoka-Hennepin, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan.
    The problem has officials questioning whether online testing is a good idea. The MCAs make up a large portion of how the state judges school performance. Students prepare for the tests all year and their scores can have wide-ranging impacts.
    "As you can imagine, this creates great consternation in this high-stakes testing environment," she said. "We are having serious discussions about it."

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