“The department is fully aware of the problems, working very hard and very fast to see if we can get them addressed before the next screening period which is in January,” says Linda Fandel, Governor Terry Branstad’s special assistant for education.
Branstad’s Department of Education has paid a Minnesota non-profit group to manage these reading proficiency tests. Soon, third graders who perform poorly on these tests will have to start taking remedial summer school classes or be held back for another year in third grade. At issue now, though, is the poor performance of the computer network for the tests.
“The Department of Education is working very closely with Iowa school districts and with the provider of the network for testing students in kindergarten through third grade as well as some older students to see how they’re doing with literacy, reading throughout the year,” Fandel says.
The test is given three times a year. Iowa teachers say there have been major technical glitches with the testing program this fall. Some teachers have been unable log in at all to give the test. Others say the program has been crashing in the middle of tests, so students have to retake it several times.
A 2014 audit found the Minnesota non-profit the State of Iowa hired for these tests was running a deficit. Governor Branstad’s education policy advisor did not indicate what deadline may have been set for resolving the problems with the Iowa tests this Minnesota firm manages.