STAAR Testing Canceled Tuesday After Widespread Glitches Reported

Students kicked out of testing program, report lags, unable to submit answers at districts across the state

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The first day of standardized testing in Texas is canceled for thousands of students due to widespread technical issues.

Teachers across North Texas began reporting problems issuing the STAAR test Tuesday morning. Students were being kicked out of tests, had trouble submitting answers, were unable to log back in, or were experiencing slow load times on the site.

It is not clear how many students were affected.

Some of the tests were being administered online through a website from the Texas Education Agency, operated by vendor ETS.

Some schools were taking paper versions of the test and were without issue, but IT teams at the online schools were working Monday morning with TEA to try to remedy the issue before the state advised schools to suspend testing for the day.

Texas officials mandated that students take the STAAR test in person this year at monitored test sites, even though millions of students are still conducting their studies remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Educators across the state said they needed the test results for a more accurate look at where students have fallen behind academically because of the pandemic.

Corbett Smith with The Dallas Morning News joins NBC 5 to discuss widespread problems with the online administration of STAAR tests and how the glitches have fueled arguments against standardized testing.

The Texas Education Agency released a statement Tuesday.

“We understand the frustration this has caused students, parents, teachers, and administrators. What happened today is completely unacceptable. ETS, the testing vendor, experienced problems with their database system, which are in the process of being corrected. The 2021 online administration of STAAR will be ETS’s last for the State of Texas. Beginning next school year, Cambium Assessment will be taking over these critical testing functions to ensure that users have a seamless online testing experience moving forward.

“All involved in public education in Texas should expect better than what they have experienced today; we are working to ensure that our students do not experience future testing issues.”

Teachers association leaders said the technical issues are nothing new and are a persistent problem, which the state and ETS have not been able to remedy.

"This company was fined a pretty large fine and had to invest in their infrastructure to keep it from happening again and then it occurred again in 2018," said Steven Poole, executive director, United Educators Association, Fort Worth.

The Fort Worth ISD issued the following statement Tuesday.

"Earlier today, districts across the state, including the Fort Worth ISD, experienced connectivity issues with the STAAR Online Testing Platform (SOTP). ETS (the test vendor) has been posting updates to the STAAR Assessment Management System dashboard every 10 minutes to keep districts apprised of the progress in resolving the issue. At this time, connectivity issues with the SOTP have not been resolved. Work is continuing, and an update with be provided by no later than early tomorrow. This issue impacts ONLY those FWISD students taking the online grade 4 Writing, grade 7 Writing, and English I. Thousands of other Fort Worth ISD students are continuing with the pencil and paper version of the tests, without interruption."

The issues with the STAAR come at a time with parents are leading large efforts calling for the state to end STAAR testing, saying it stresses their children unnecessarily.

Keller ISD parent Joni Smith, said her son was so upset over STAAR she had to keep him home Monday.

"He could barely eat his breakfast and so distraught. I thought he was just tired from the weekend," said Smith. "I'm like baby, What is the problem? and he says, I'm just so stressed, I'm tired of being stressed from the STAAR test."

Smith said schools teach to the STAAR too much and it stresses out students, and teachers, because so much rides on the test scores.

The TEA said the tests will resume Wednesday.

NBC 5 and the Associated Press
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