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Nevada testing problems impede school accountability ratings

Nevada education officials will hit pause on the state’s school accountability ratings following weeks of computer glitches that have marred an online student testing system.

The State Board of Education on Thursday voted to carry over the one- to five-star ratings that individual campuses received in the 2013-14 school year to the 2014-15 school year.

However, board members voiced support for keeping Nevada schools on track to convert student testing from pencil-and-paper versions to an online format — despite the technical errors that have prevented most public school students from taking the federally mandated tests since they began March 30.

Only 211,000 students, or 11.5 percent of the third- to eighth-grade population, successfully completed the math portion of the online assessments, said Steve Canavero, deputy state superintendent for student achievement.

He explained to board members that the one-year pause of school accountability ratings — not accountability itself, he stressed — would mirror a request that the Nevada Department of Education submitted in March to the U.S. Department of Education to postpone the federal ratings that it would have issued in September.

Cavanero added that the department would not make any “high-stakes decisions,” such as closing a campus, based on the school ratings that will carry over to the current year.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga told the board that the vendors who administered the online testing system have not yet offered a solution to the server errors and computer glitches that also affected student assessments in Montana and North Dakota.

“The challenge now is we’re running out of time,” said Erquiaga, in reference to the additional tests that students must complete before the end of the school year.

Last week, the Clark County School District announced it would indefinitely suspends online testing.

Problems with computerized testing began two weeks ago, with many students unable to log into the testing server, losing connecting during testing and more.

Erquiaga said CCSD has seen limited success this week, with “a few” students completing their online tests each day.

He will host a call with CCSD Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss the federal implications of the low student testing participation rate.

Contact Neal Morton at nmorton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @nealtmorton.

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