- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska officials have been working with a state contractor to solve technical problems that hampered statewide writing tests for thousands of students earlier this year.

Eighth- and 11th-grade students in at least 87 districts were affected during testing over a three-week period in January and February, the Lincoln Journal Star said (http://bit.ly/NmXRwc ).

Valorie Foy, the Nebraska Education Department’s director of statewide assessment, said the state knows that about 500 students lost work and 1,000 more were shut out or kicked off the program for 40 minutes on Jan. 23. Officials haven’t been able to track how many students were kicked off the computer or couldn’t log in at other times.

The 1,500 students are a little more than 3 percent of the state’s 44,000 eighth- and 11th-grade students. Fourth-grade students used pencils and paper.

The department hasn’t yet decided how to handle the writing test results, Foy said, but the tests will be graded by Data Recognition Corp., which contracts with the state to develop and administer the tests.

“We had them score the tests because there were many students who had a good experience and will want to know how they did,” Foy said.

Individual reports on the students’ writing scores will be sent to parents or guardians in September, and officials say the reports will make it clear whether the children experienced the technological difficulties.

It’s still undetermined whether the eighth- and 11th-grade writing results will be used in official reports.

Test scores in writing, reading, math and science are submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, which requires schools to meet benchmarks. The results also are published in the state Education Department’s State of the Schools reports.

Because of some formatting problems last year, the writing results were published in the state report but not used for federal or state accountability purposes.

Foy said officials have pinpointed the source of this year’s problems with the state writing test and intend to fix them before students take statewide reading, math and science tests this spring.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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