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LA Unified says Smarter Balanced testing back on schedule

Vanessa Romo | April 30, 2015

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Smarter BalancedAfter a year of disastrous technical issues and internet connectivity problems, LA Unified students are on track to complete the new computerized state mandated tests called Smarter Balanced, according to district officials.

Cynthia Lim, executive director of the office of Data and Accountability, told LA School Report today that more than 50 percent of students have begun at least one section of the four-part exam.

“As of today, we are right on schedule,” Lim said, explaining that students are seven weeks into a 13 week testing window.

“We are not behind,” she insisted.

A report issued Monday to school board members by Lim said 632 schools had begun testing and 40 percent of students had completed one test section.

“But the numbers have gone up since then,” she said.

The Smarter Balanced exams are being administered to students in grades 3 through 8 and 11, until June 4. They replace California’s statewide exams after the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. Results will eventually be used to measure a school’s academic improvement over time, although the state is currently appealing a federal directive to implement scores this year.

Lim’s data indicates a vast improvement in the district’s technology support and infrastructure over last year, the first time students were given the exam.

Results for the dry-run last spring were not made public, but in a survey following the field test, many schools reported technical difficulties: students were unable to log onto the testing site, connections to the internet were spotty and many students were booted out of the system, unable to complete the test.

Teachers and students experienced similar problems in February, when the district participated in a statewide “dress rehearsal” for this year’s test. However, the state took the lion’s share of the blame for the inability of schools to log onto the testing site, which is administered by the California Department of Education. As a result, it updated the secured browser that students use to take the actual test.

This time around, “staff in the Student Testing Branch and support staff in the Information Technology Division have reported no major issues that have prevented schools from testing thus far,” Lim writes in the report.

Most of the problems reported to the district’s help desk have been focused on student log in credentials, test administration guidelines, resetting passwords, accommodations for students with disabilities and requests to re-open or reset tests.

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