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Wichita, area schools to resume state testing

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, April 20, 2014, at 10:12 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, April 21, 2014, at 5:39 a.m.

Wichita and surrounding school districts are expected to resume state testing this week, and officials say the system is performing more smoothly after weeks of technical challenges.

Wichita district officials said some schools, however, will not administer the assessments in certain subjects or grade levels because their testing windows have passed and they don’t want to reschedule tests.

Susan Arensman, spokeswoman for the Wichita district, said some schools reported “pretty successful” test days last week, with more students being able to log in to the system and complete math and reading tests.

Wichita students will take the new assessments through May 16, she said, but “if a school’s testing window has passed, they are not being asked to go back and reschedule.” Arensman said she did not know how many schools had canceled testing.

Marianne Perie, director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas, which developed and manages the new assessment tests, said districts across the state were reporting fewer problems last week.

“It’s been a great week of testing and a slow week for our help desk,” Perie said. “We are now past the halfway point in terms of tests completed.”

Maize school officials alerted parents late last week that the district would resume testing Monday after suspending the tests because of widespread software and bandwidth issues.

“We … do not expect to be able to complete all tests in the time that is remaining, even though the state extended its testing window through May 16,” Karen Duling, director of elementary education and assessments for Maize schools, wrote in an e-mail to parents.

“However, Maize Schools will continue to participate in the required state assessments to our fullest ability.”

School officials in Derby, Haysville and Goddard said they are plugging along on the tests as well.

“The persistence and determination of our students and staff is paying off, as several of our buildings have finished testing,” said Teresa Tosh, assistant superintendent for learning services for the Haysville district.

“We periodically have had students kicked out of their testing sessions and have missing questions on the test,” she said. “Our goal has been to provide the best testing environment for our students. To do that, our approach to testing has been slow and steady.”

Teresa San Martin, assistant superintendent for academic affairs in Goddard, said testing is going more smoothly in that district as well. But “missing (test) items continue to be the norm, and the audio portions do not work for the most part,” she said.

Districts across the state have reported technical glitches with the rollout of new state assessment tests, which began March 10. This year’s testing period will continue almost to the end of the school year, but it now seems unlikely that all students required to take the tests will take or complete them.

Schools are required to test students annually in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. Students also are tested in science in the fourth, seventh and 11th grades.

State officials have said it’s not a problem if some schools or students don’t complete this year’s tests, which are being viewed as a trial run for a new type of test that reflects Common Core state standards. The State Board of Education decided last month that all public schools in Kansas will remain accredited next year, regardless of how they perform on the tests.

Test developers said they plan to give districts some feedback and data, but they may not report school-specific data, as they have in past years, because this year’s test, with all its stops and starts, may not truly reflect how much students have learned.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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