ND school leader addresses Common Core testing problems

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota may consider legal action to address online testing problems tied to the federally backed Common Core education standards, the state school superintendent said Friday.

"All of our options are open," Kirsten Baesler told reporters at the state Capitol in Bismarck.

North Dakota adopted Common Core standards in 2011 and began to fully implement them during the 2013-14 school year. The state has been participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which developed English and math tests intended to align with Common Core standards. North Dakota is one of three states, along with Montana and Nevada, that contract with New Hampshire-based Measured Progress to administer the tests.

Baesler said Measured Progress' testing has been plagued by technical glitches, including the inability of some students to log into the system. Montana and Nevada have experienced similar problems, she said.

Twenty-one of North Dakota's 179 school districts have eschewed the online assessments in favor of paper-and-pencil tests, she said.

"I am frustrated at the disruption that problems with the testing has caused in some of our schools," Baesler said.

Officials at Measured Progress did not immediately return telephone calls Friday seeking comment.

Students in grades three through eight and high school juniors began taking the tests this year. Baesler said many of the technical problems have been resolved at least temporarily and about 74 percent of the students have been given the tests. The state is required to test 95 percent of the students by the end of the school year and Baesler is optimistic that will be met.

North Dakota's three-year contract started this year and cost $4.6 million. Baesler said the state has paid only about $700,000 of the contract so far and may opt to end it after this year.

Baesler said she has been discussing legal options with the state attorney generals' office.

"It is our priority to guard the taxpayers' investment and ensure that the testing problems that have occurred do not happen again," she said.

Baesler said a task force of parents, educators, lawmakers and business representatives is being created this summer to evaluate other testing options. She said the task force may have its recommendations in about a year.

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