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Kansas education officials renew student testing contract

Posted June 14

— Kansas education officials are renewing a contract with the state's student assessment provider despite technical problems that caused delays for many school districts.

Members of the Kansas State Board of Education unanimously voted on Tuesday to renew the $6 million contract with the University of Kansas' Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation.

The renewal decision had been put on hold in April based on state Education Commissioner Randy Watson's recommendation, the Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/2t1BZMX ) reported. The move came two weeks after technical issues began when 15,000 students were simultaneously taking the assessments.

The university's Achievement and Assessment Institute oversees the center, which has administered tests for the state's school districts since 1989.

"We will continue to do better," said Neal Kingston, director of the institute. "They (education officials) certainly had some concerns and they looked into it, and they made a decision that we will live up to."

The majority of the technical problems school districts faced in April were related to servers at the Kansas Interactive Testing Engine, or KITE, that became overloaded, according to Deputy Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander.

Kingston said immediate fixes were made to the database connection management software.

"Regardless of that, it's got to work," Neuenswander said. "The issue at hand is that we have to make sure KITE and the testing engine work when the kids get on."

Kingston said additional KITE staff members have been hired to increase the work being done to anticipate issues and reduce wait times when someone calls with a problem.

Testing problems also have occurred in the past, mostly recently last year when a fiber cable was cut in Lawrence, causing state testing delays in 17 states using the KITE platform. State reading, math and science test results from 2014 were ultimately thrown out because of cyberattacks and other technical issues.

"Whenever you deal with technology, you're going to have issues," Neuenswander said. "What we've experienced is not unique to Kansas."

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