FARGO-Frustration is mounting as this year's North Dakota State Assessment tests turn into a headache to administer, officials with the Fargo and West Fargo school districts said Thursday.

The problem is so widespread statewide that the head of the Department of Public Instruction is giving the state's schools three options to handle the technological fouls this year's tests-mandatory under state and federal law-present.

"There have been times when the state system goes down and that impedes the progress of the testing," said Fargo Schools Superintendent Jeff Schatz. "There have been log-in issues where the test proctors have had trouble with getting the kids" in the online testing system.

"There is a level of frustration at the local level with the overall technology issues," he said.

Fargo's technology is up to the task for the online testing, Schatz said. However, the Department of Public Instruction has been unable to keep up its end of the deal.

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There were delays in starting the testing, and now it works in fits and starts, Schatz said. He worries that even if the testing gets done, the results may have little validity.

West Fargo has had a similar experience, said district spokeswoman Heather Konschak.

"There have been glitches in the system that have impacted our test schedules, and we have learned to take it one day at a time," she said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler said the state has had significant technological issues with the testing.

A vendor called Measured Progress is supposed to deliver the Smarter Balanced tests electronically for North Dakota, Nevada and Montana, but there were issues with open source software provided by another firm. Also, despite the fact that Measured Progress put more servers into place than were requested, they weren't enough, resulting in students being bumped off during testing.

In a memo to school officials Thursday, Baesler laid out three options for testing:

  • Schools where the tests are working well should try to complete all of their testing. If they can't finish all of the North Dakota State Assessment tests, they should focus on the computer adaptive testing, and forgo classroom activities and performance tasks.
  • Schools that have technological problems, or where they prefer a paper-and-pencil test, can still get paper-and-pencil tests from Measured Progress. If they don't have time for all of the testing, they can focus on the "selective response" part of the tests.
  • Once the testing window closes, any school that faced significant hurdles to completing testing should report that to DPI, which will work with them to document problems and support them if there are any sanctions by the Department of Education.

Baesler said it will be a challenge to get the tests done in time.

"We're up against the clock here. Some school districts may physically, logistically be unable to get everyone done," she said.