Students achievement test results hit with delays

The school year is all but over — and a contractor handling Idaho’s new standardized test needs an extension.

This spring’s results from the new Idaho Standards Achievement Test by Smarter Balanced, linked to Idaho Core Standards, have been trickling in slowly, so parents won’t find out how their children did until later in the month, and well into summer break.

That means school districts are frustrated, and scrambling.

“We are working with (the State Department of Education) to explore options to provide parents with the scores and an understanding of what those scores mean,” said Dan Hollar, a spokesman for the Boise School District, where the 2014-15 school year has ended.

The State Department of Education acknowledges the delays, caused by a pair of reporting glitches.

The testing period ran from March 30 through May 22 — and since the results were due within 10 days of the test, the state should have received more results by late April or early May, department spokesman Jeff Church said.

As of Wednesday , the department has about 112,600 test scores in hand, representing a majority of the roughly 140,000 students tested this spring. Districts should have all results available by Friday.

But Idaho’s three largest districts have received only a fraction of their test results.

The West Ada School District, Idaho’s biggest, has about 30 percent of its test scores back – about 1,000 for every grade level, said Jackie Thomason, director of assessment. The district had originally hoped to send scores to parents electronically, but now the district is planning to mail them about the last week of June.

Boise has received about 30 percent of its scores, although the numbers vary based on grade and test. But all the numbers are incomplete, Hollar said, and the district doesn’t have a full report for any grade.

The Nampa School District has received less than 20 percent of its English language arts test scores and 26 percent of its math scores, spokeswoman Allison Westfall said Tuesday. Nearly 7,900 Nampa students took the ISATs. Nampa is already on summer break; its last school day was Friday.

The new ISAT by Smarter Balanced was administered across the state to third- through eighth-graders and 10th graders. The test, aligned to Idaho Core Standards, will count this year for the first time; the assessment was field-tested statewide in 2014.

But because the state has been waiting on results from contractors, that means schools and parents are waiting as well.

If the schools receive results by Friday, as the State Department of Education expects, they will have until June 26 to pass along the results to parents.

And that’s part of the frustration for the schools, Hollar said. The ISAT is a new exam — and, typically, student scores drop the first year of a new assessment. As a result, schools will be busy trying to help parents interpret the new numbers.

Church attributes the delays to two problems.

First, there were delays in getting hand-scored results from Measurement Inc. and American Institutes for Research, a Washington, D.C.-based contractor delivering the statewide assessments in 11 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Then, AIR had its own glitch. The completed test results weren’t feeding properly into its online reporting system.

The contractors were supposed to deliver results within 10 days of the tests. However, the state “would likely not pursue major action” against contractors if the test results are in hand by close of business Friday, Church said.

Statesman Education Reporter Bill Roberts contributed.