- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Department of Education is considering a five-year, $29.2 million contract with a company that’s offering a new approach to the majority of statewide academic tests for elementary school students.

The department has chosen the Northwest Evaluation Association to give reading, math and science tests to third- through eighth-graders, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2p16e8f ) reported.

The state sought proposals after recurring technical problems with a previously contracted company that hindered the state’s writing test. The state said it wanted to broaden the testing company’s role and change the questions’ formatting. The state also wanted the future testing company to turn around test results faster so that teachers can use them.

Education officials preferred using “adaptive” tests, where the questions students are given are based on answers they’ve completed in previous questions. Students who answer a question right will receive a different question than those who answer it incorrectly.

“It was part of an overall vision to see if we could find out deeper information about students’ knowledge on state tests,” said Valorie Foy, the state’s education assessment director.

The change is part of a larger effort to create an accountability system for schools that relies on more than test scores.

Foy said Northwest’s proposal includes assessments that schools can use to gauge student performance in addition to the state tests. It will also offer professional development to assist teachers in better using test results to improve classroom instruction and will make results available soon after students take the test.

The board will vote on the contract Friday.

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

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