Problems with a new online testing system prompted the State Education Board to decide this week that all Kansas public schools will be accredited next year.
That’s good news for schools that started administering the new tests Monday and ran into problems using the Kansas Interactive Testing Engine, or KITE, which was developed at the University of Kansas.
“The first couple of hours looked good,” said Marianne Perie, co-director of the university’s Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, which designed the new system. “But as more and more students logged on, it overloaded the system.”
Schools that began testing this week on the first day of the state’s testing window reported problems, such as students being unable to log into the system or the system seizing up so students couldn’t finish the tests they began.
The KITE system was developed to deliver the tests to classroom computers around the state and score them when they are completed. It is designed to handle more complex, “technology-enhanced” test questions than the standard true-false or multiple choice questions that have been used in the past.
The state didn’t originally expect to use the system until next year, when it fully implements new tests aligned to the Common Core standards, said Brad Neuenswander, deputy education commissioner for learning services.
Last year, when state officials were planning for this year’s test, it was assumed Kansas would contract with the multistate Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to design the Common Core-aligned tests, which will be available next year.
In the interim, the state contracted with the university’s testing center to develop “transitional assessments” that could be aligned to the Common Core standards. At the same time, the state was contracting with KU to develop the KITE engine, which could deliver any kind of test the state wanted.
The Board of Education in December voted not to use Smarter Balanced and instead contracted with KU to develop all state assessments.
The schedule for launching KITE was moved up a year because teachers and administrators wanted to pilot the new test and delivery system at the same time to work the bugs out before the new tests are fully implemented next year.
The tests have little real impact for students, but they are important for the schools and state Department of Education because they are used as the basis for accrediting schools and qualifying for federal funding.