Nacogdoches High School one of many schools to dismiss online STAAR testing until Wednesday

Nacogdoches High School one of many schools to dismiss online STAAR testing until Wednesday
Many Texas school districts are administering the STAAR tests online for the first time this year. Credit: Erich Schlegel for USA Today Network via REUTERS (Source: Texas Tribune)

Widespread technical issues across the state shut down Tuesday morning’s online STAAR testing for thousands of students. The outages impacted the majority of districts administering the tests online. The five-hour STAAR test was abruptly brought to a halt at Nacogdoches High School.

The announcement to suspend testing for the day came around noon.

“Teachers take signage off of doors. Put it into your testing bucket,” could be heard throughout classroom speakers.

“So, what happened about 45 minutes into the actual exam we started receiving error messages on the student’s actual Chrome Books,” said teacher Forest Krebbs. “Which notified us obviously, as teachers inside the room that something going on.”

A website from the Texas Education Agency was crashing across the state, eventually leading to an instruction to dismiss from testing until tomorrow.

That sent Nacogdoches High School administrators to a situation room.

Interim principal Dr. Kenneth Matthews knew testing materials from 400 high school students had to be secure. There were students, teachers, and parents to be notified about the next step. He also had to let non-test takers know virtual learning would continue for another day.

Matthews rolls with the punches.

“The way things have happened this whole entire year, talking about the pandemic, the floods, the rain, the snow, and everything, I think it’s part of a natural day,” Matthews said. “I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault or anything like that.”

The Texas Education Agency stated, “What happened today is completely unacceptable.”

The testing company’s contract will end four months early.

New Texas standardized testing contracts total $388 million.

That’s state’s business.

Matthews’ team plan is in motion.

Ok, are we good? Thank you appreciate you,” he said while parting from his team.

Students and parents: Check your district’s website to see testing instructions that are specific to your district. Some districts did not use online testing. Paper versions had no issues.

All Texas public schools are expected to go online for testing this May.

Statement from TEA Student Assessment Division:

Earlier today, districts experienced connectivity issues with the STAAR Online Testing Platform (SOTP). We posted updates to the STAAR Assessment Management System dashboard every 10 minutes to keep districts apprised of the progress in resolving the issue.

The three STAAR tests affected were Grade 4 writing, Grade 7 writing, and English I. This was the first of five days that students were eligible to take one of these three tests online.

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.

We are still analyzing data to determine the number of students affected. Students could have experienced four different scenarios with online testing today:

1) the student could have successfully submitted the test without disruption; 2) the student could have successfully submitted answers but may have noticed unusually slow response times; 3) the student could have been prevented from logging in to begin with; or 4) the student could have begun to answer questions, but at some point was prevented from continuing, and in this instance, answers were saved every 30 seconds so that these students will be able to pick up where they left off.

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.”

Every child, prepared for success in college, a career, or the military. Find out more at tea.texas.gov.

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