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The Montana Office of Public Instruction has decided to withhold payment to Measured Progress, the company behind the software for the Smarter Balanced tests that experienced issues when students in Montana took them earlier this year.

Smarter Balanced tests, which evaluate students on Common Core standards, are the examination OPI chose to use to satisfy the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

Results from the tests were supposed to be delivered in mid-July, but have been delayed by ongoing technical issues. In an update given to Montana school districts, OPI announced it would not pay a bill for $118,650 until scores were delivered.

Emilie Ritter Saunders, communications director for OPI, said the amount is what Measured Progress invoiced the state for in the month of July. The agency has not yet been invoiced for August, but intends to withhold that payment as well.

OPI has paid Measured Progress $1,080,355 since its five-year contract began last October. Each year of the contract is worth $1,330,155.

“We are in weekly communication with Measured Progress. They tell us that within the next several weeks we will have our test results,” Ritter Saunders said.

Technical issues with the examination, including crashes when too many students attempted to take the test at once, were reported by some Montana schools in the spring.

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Even after Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau allowed schools opt out of the test because of the technical issues, Ritter Saunders said 82 percent of students in the state still completed the exam. Fifteen percent of schools chose not to test.

“That’s a success given the schools had the flexibility to choose whether to test after we had a series of technical issues,” Ritter Saunders said.

The participation does not meet the 95 percent requirement of the federal government, and could lead to sanctions. Ritter Saunders said OPI has not been notified by the U.S. Department of Education whether that requirement will be enforced, but said if penalties are leveled Juneau will not hold school districts liable.

Once OPI receives the scores, they will be sent for independent review with the Center for Assessment to determine if the technical issues had any impact. When that assessment is completed, the scores will be delivered to the school districts, which is expected in November.

Nevada, another state that used Measured Progress for its Smarter Balanced tests, recently reached a nearly $1.3 million settlement with the company because of similar issues, and has signed a contract with a new company to administer future tests.

Measured Progress released a statement Tuesday, but deferred questions about OPI withholding the payment to state officials.

“Measured Progress is collaborating with the Montana Office of Public Instruction to ensure that this year’s online assessments result in meaningful information that helps improve student learning,” the company said.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.