Officials tackle school testing problems

The Minnesota Department of Education is working to clear up a number of problems with online assessment testing after dozens of Minnesota school districts have encountered glitches when trying to administer the tests online in recent weeks.

State officials say they've been in touch with American Institutes of Research, or AIR, the non-profit company that delivers Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests online, almost constantly since challenges emerged last week.

Students have waited as long as four minutes for new questions to load on their tests, and some students have been logged out of the system while taking the exams.

Officials at AIR say last week's problems were caused by a server malfunction. But no one is sure what caused this week's problems, AIR and state education officials say they're looking over the data in an effort to diagnose the issue.

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Some school administrators say state officials should extend the deadline for testing, now set at May 10th, so schools that have dealt with computer glitches have more time to finish testing.

And they're questioning whether this year's test scores will be valid, considering all of the problems students and teachers have had to work through.

Others say they'll consider going back to paper and pencil assessment tests next year, if state education officials and the company delivering the online tests, aren't able to assure them that the problems are fixed.

AIR signed a three year, $61 million dollar contract with the state in 2011 to deliver online testing for the state. The company was one of three finalists for the contract.

A committee of 38 people at the Minnesota Department of Education, along with other education officials, picked AIR after a nine month vetting process.

Minnesota education officials say they're confident that process worked as intended, and that there was no way to foresee this year's problems with testing.