After RISE testing glitches, Utah state education officials will bring in third-party evaluators

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UPDATE: Questar Assessment Chief Operating Officer Brad Baumgartner sent the following statement to on Tuesday after this story was published: “Questar Assessment Inc. understands the state’s frustration with the administration of the RISE assessments. We are committed to working with a third party evaluator in an effort to determine the impact of systems issues and ensure the validity of Utah data. We remain dedicated to the students, teachers and school districts of Utah, and we take our responsibility to provide accurate and insightful testing results seriously.”

SALT LAKE CITY — After glitches plagued the administration of Utah’s new RISE assessment test statewide, KSL TV has learned that state education officials will be working with third-party evaluators to determine how best to deal with RISE testing issues.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson announced the news in a note sent to educators, which was obtained by KSL TV Monday.

“Unfortunately, the mounting issues with the operating platform created by (RISE test vendor) Questar Assessment bring up many questions that will need to be answered,” Dickson wrote. “We believe the results can still be used to inform classroom instruction and individual student learning. However, we are less confident about overall accountability.”

The RISE (Readiness, Improvement, Success, Empowerment) test is administered to students in third through eighth grade. During testing sessions at the end of April, students got error messages when they tried to submit answers to questions.

The issues started on April 25 and 26, and happened again on April 30. Dickson also said in the note that “Friday was a very rough day statewide for testing,” but did not elaborate.

Students who submitted tests before April 25 did not experience any testing errors.

Dickson said a still-to-be-determined third party will help state education officials evaluate the lasting effects of the glitches. The Utah State Board of Education’s technical advisory committee will also help analyze the issues, she said.

State education officials are holding out hope that analysis of the service interruptions will show they haven’t significantly impacted the overall data, Dickson said. They may also consider “placing an asterisk indicating where there have been testing irregularities that may have skewed the data,” her statement says.

The worst-case scenario would be to scrap all school accountability results for this year, Dickson said.

Questar has a 10-year, $44 million contract with the state of Utah for RISE testing. It was selected last year as a replacement after state school board officials announced the previous test, SAGE, would be ending.

Just over 650,000 tests have been completed and submitted so far across the state, and there will be about 1 million total tests administered, Dickson said. Discontinuing testing would violate state statutes, she added.

Officials have been documenting all reports of testing irregularities and are analyzing the testing system as they go, Dickson said. However, they will not be able to reach a conclusion until late summer about the effects of the testing glitches. The state board of education would then make official recommendations in September about testing moving forward, Dickson said.

“With a new system we expected some learning curves as have occurred with each new assessment, but this experience has been filled with unprecedented challenges along the way,” Dickson said. “We sincerely apologize for the stress and frustration.”

Questar did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comments on Monday afternoon.

Contributing: Deanie Wimmer, KSL TV

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