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North Dakota is one of at least three states experiencing problems administering the new online Smarter Balance standardized assessment, prompting the state superintendent to suggest Wednesday that schools pause testing.

The problem stems from a service interruption Tuesday that lasted 20 minutes, said Dale Wetzel, spokesperson for the state Department of Public Instruction.

The glitch prevented test administrators from logging in students for scheduled testing sessions, according to a DPI memo sent to schools Tuesday. The memo says the state's testing contractor, Measured Progress, reports the servers are now working correctly.

News outlets in Montana and Nevada are reporting similar problems with testing. All three states have contracted with Measured Progress.

In a separate message to school administrators Wednesday, State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler suggested districts pause testing if they are experiencing problems.

She said she has met with DPI staff and two lawyers from the attorney general's office who are assigned to the department. They are discussing options about going forward with the assessment, which replaced the paper-and-pencil version of the North Dakota State Assessment this year.

"My primary concern is, and always will be, what is best for our students and our schools," Baesler said. "We also must consider that state and federal law require periodic assessments of the progress of our children in school."

She added that the Smarter Balanced test is a valuable tool.

"I believe our implementation difficulties do not mean the test design is not valid," she said. "But we also must be sensitive to the problems we have observed and be quick to address them."

This week's testing problems come after two delays launching the assessment. DPI attributed those issues to technology glitches its contractors needed to fix.

The department says testing is 18 percent complete statewide.

(Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8267 or amy.sisk@bismarcktribune.com.)

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