TEA Reports Varied State-Wide Connectivity Issues With The STAAR Online Testing Platform
State testing days can be a tense time for students as well as teaches and parents tasked with preparing students for and administering the tests. On Tuesday, the first of five scheduled state testing days, some students taking the state fourth grade writing, seventh grade writing and English I exams felt that strain even more due to what Texas Education is calling “connectivity issues with the STAAR online testing platform.”
“At 10:17 a.m. CDT today, districts were advised if they were having issues that they should stop online testing for the day while the vendor works to resolve these problems. Online testing will resume tomorrow,” TEA Student Assessment Division reported in a statement issued around noon April 6, 2021.
Students had four experiences when attempting to take their STAAR tests online:
- the student could have successfully submitted the test without disruption;
- the student could have successfully submitted answers but may have noticed unusually slow response times;
- the student could have been prevented from logging in to begin with; or
- the student could have begun to answer questions, but at some point was prevented from continuing, and in this instance, answers were saved every thirty seconds so that these students will be able to pick up where they left off.
While Superintendent Steve Johnson reports no issues with the online today at Miller Grove ISD, Sulphur Springs and and Sulphur Bluff ISD officials reported some of their students did encounter problems while attempting to take the online State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness tests.
According to Principal Amy Daniel, three Sulphur Bluff Elementary students were disrupted by the connectivity issues while taking the STAAR. They had a hard time entering the testing site. However, all three will retest Thursday.
Assistant Superintendent Josh Williams reported Sulphur Springs students all four potential situations, some were not able to even start their tests, while others started but the system quit on them.
Williams acknowledged that testing can be a stressful time for students, and interruptions do not help ease that. He praised SSISD staff for “loving on” and reassuring students who did have difficulties taking the test.
“The state is well aware of educator concerns throughout the state that have asked that we not have state testing this year as a result of the chaotic nature that the pandemic has placed on our schools. Ignoring that, the state still mandated testing and added extra stress on teachers during an already incredibly stressful year. After today’s debacle, the testing situation has not only shown weaknesses in the state model for a push for mandating online testing in the near future, but it also caused another set of stresses to an already fragile education system,” Como-Pickton CISD Superintendent Greg Bower stated.
“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,” the TEA Student Assessment Division noted in the prepared statement. “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.”
While districts will be held “harmless” on state accountability rates which would normally be based largely on state testing results, Texas students are still required to take the STAAR tests this year for districts and the state to measure student growth. The STAAR test results may not necessarily influence students grade level advancement, the data will be used by schools as a measure of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed schools in 2020 after spring break and this year has resulted in some students quarantining at home due to sickness or exposure and others attending Virtual Academy, on individual, grade level, campus, district and state-wide.