Nebraska switched to statewide tests in math, science, reading and writing from a patchwork of local tests for good reason: so that parents and taxpayers could more easily hold K-12 schools accountable.
Now it’s time for the Nebraska Department of Education to demand at least as much accountability from the vendor providing its statewide tests.
This year marks the third time in four tries that the vendor has flubbed its chance to smoothly run computerized, online statewide testing. It might be time, as state Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt told The World-Herald, to move on from Data Recognition Corp.
At minimum, the Education Department should see whether Nebraskans could do better by soliciting a new round of bids for vendors. And the state should take a good look at its $7 million-a-year contract to see how much, if any, of taxpayers’ investment can be recouped.
More than 7,000 Nebraska students were affected by problems in January, with many temporarily shut out of online writing tests or left without access to the tests’ online tools.
This occurred after glitches bobbled writing test scores for some middle and high schoolers in 2012-13 and prompted the state to withhold all writing scores in 2013-14.
Statewide tests help parents and voters evaluate their local school districts, elected school boards, principals and teachers.
The state’s testing contractor has repeatedly apologized and pledged to do better. It’s time for the state to decide whether the company can deliver on its promises or whether it’s time to try something new.