Iowa schools to stop using $14M testing software after audit

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Department of Education plans to end its contract with a testing software vendor after a technical audit found the $14 million system was “unfit.”

The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/2qKYSVJ ) reported the 91-page audit found that the TIER testing platform, which is designed to give reading tests to students, was a “dense and disjointed” system and would likely experience technical failures in the future.

“At this time we are choosing to terminate the contract,” department spokeswoman Staci Hupp said. “We’re concerned about a number of things, including the data system’s ability to perform in the future.”

The audit found that some webpages loaded slowly and there isn’t an obvious way to search for a specific student. The audit also found “three security vulnerabilities,” though didn’t provide specifics about the security concerns.

There is no evidence any student data was breached, Hupp said.

The software was created by nonprofit tech group TIES. The nonprofit’s attorney, Susan Mussell, has disputed the audit’s findings. The system has supported Iowa teachers and students, she said.

“We disagree with many of the findings, which we view as subjective opinions,” she said.

The state hired a third party to investigate the TIER testing platform in the fall, after teachers administering reading exams to elementary students reported issues with the system. Those issues included not being able to access it to it crashing in the middle of tests.

The nearly $225,000 audit was conducted by World Wide Technology from December through May.

State officials plan to terminate the contract June 30.

The Education Department plans to contract with testing vendor FASTBridge for the next school year, though a long-term solution is still being sought.