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Politics & Government

Smarter Balance gets another crack at running ND's assessment tests

The firm in charge of handling the North Dakota state student assessment tests will get one more chance to show it has corrected the problems seen last year.

In 2015, Smarter Balance had some problems with administering the assessments. There were computer problems, and some schools didn’t get the tests when they were supposed to. After that, state school superintendent Kirsten Baesler convened a task force to look at the state assessments – and who would administer the tests. Baesler says that task force is still working on the issue. Meanwhile, this spring’s assessments begin in March.

"So much of it depends on how well the administration of this test goes," Baesler said. "Some of our schools didn't have a very good experience last spring, while some schools had a great experience, and it was flawless. But some isn't enough."

Baesler says she doesn't want the company -- or the schools -- to feel they were "whip-sawed" in this decision.

"There's a tendency in our nation to whip-saw teachers and school districts around, and we flip from one thing to another," said Baesler. "And that's not prudent leadership."

Baesler said North Dakota has a calmer and more pragmatic approach.

"We are honoring that tradition," Baesler said. "We will do Smarter Balance a second year, compare the results, see if there has been improvement and see if the test administration is the quality we want it to be."

Smarter Balance officials have apologized for the problems last year – and say they have made a number of improvements.

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