Testing Nebraska schoolkids will cost state $8.8 million next year

Nebraska will pay $8.8 million to contractors next year for statewide standardized testing of public schoolchildren.

Members of the Nebraska State Board of Education on Friday authorized Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt to negotiate contracts with the state’s testing providers for another year.

Blomstedt said the current contractors delivered this year’s testing relatively free of issues, though juniors at Westside High School experienced a problem during ACT testing that forced them to retake the exam.

The annual seven-week testing window closed Friday.

The board authorized contracting with ACT for a third year of high school testing. The $1.5 million contract includes providing the ACT exam plus writing for all public school juniors, plus access to online ACT prep and the PreACT.

Most schools choose to administer the paper-and-pencil version of the college entrance exam.

“The main types of issues that we faced were pretty limited in scope,” Blomstedt said. “I don’t know if there were many beyond what Westside experienced.”

Westside Community Schools spokeswoman Brandi Petersen said many students got “booted out” of the system for online ACT testing on April 10.

The students retook the exam, the paper version, on April 24, she said.

ACT spokesman Ed Colby said this week that his organization was still determining what caused the problems.

On a 6-0 vote, the board also authorized $6.1 million to contract with NWEA for testing in grades three through eight for the 2018-19 school year.

Bloomstedt said the company did well on its first year providing the suite of tests in the Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System.

Those are the state proficiency tests schoolkids take each year.

Last year, the board brought NWEA on board, hoping to deploy a more reliable testing system and make use of innovative tests. Under the previous contractor, the system suffered from repeated computer glitches.

“For a first-year implementation of anything, it went extremely well,” he said.

On the first day the testing window was open, there was a problem getting students logged into the online testing system, but it was resolved pretty quickly, he said.

The state will contract with Data Recognition Corporation for $1.2 million to provide alternate assessments in grades three through eight and 11.

Federal and Nebraska law require testing for accountability purposes. Tests gauge a student’s proficiency on state academic standards.