TEA on STAAR Test problems: ‘What happened today is completely unacceptable’

Updated: Apr. 6, 2021 at 2:14 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - On the first day of the STAAR test for fourth and seventh graders in Texas, the online testing platform experienced connectivity issues and caused the students to stop testing for the day.

This was the first of five days that students were eligible to take one of these tests online.

The three STAAR tests affected were Grade 4 writing, Grade 7 writing and English I. Online testing will resume on Wednesday.

Officials with the Texas Education Agency sent a statement saying in part, “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 thirty 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.”

Lubbock ISD high school students unable to start or complete their online English I STAAR EOC assessment will retest Tuesday, April 13. Those experiencing difficulties with grades 4 of 7 online writing assessments will have the remainder of this week to complete it.

Frenship and Lubbock-Cooper ISDs did not state when a retesting date will be set for students affected.

According to an article in the Texas Tribune, “While the test is required this year, there is no penalty for fifth and eighth graders who don’t show up or who fail the STAAR test this year. Texas officials have said the test would not affect students’ ability to move up to the next grade. But high school students must pass five subject-specific courses by the time they graduate, a requirement that will not be waived this year.”

Below is the full statement released by Lubbock ISD:

The Student Assessment Division of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) experienced technical difficulties statewide with the STAAR Online Testing Platform (SOTP) during the first day of testing on Tuesday, April 6. Lubbock ISD students were not able to start or complete the online tests, so TEA directed the district to stop online testing for the day. As of 12 p.m., TEA reported that connectivity issues with the SOTP have not been resolved. Lubbock ISD high school students who were not able to start or complete their online English I STAAR EOC assessment today will test next Tuesday, April 13. Students who were not able to start or complete the grades 4 or 7 online writing assessments will have the opportunity to do so the remainder of this week.

Frenship ISD issued the following statement:

Today, Frenship ISD, along with districts across the state of Texas, experienced connectivity issues with the STAAR Online Testing Platform known as SOTP. According to the Texas Education Agency, the three tests that were affected state-wide are Grade 4 writing, Grade 7 writing, and English I.

Approximately 94 Frenship students opted to take their test online this morning. Of those, some students were able to successfully submit their tests while others experienced the connectivity issues described by TEA.

The online issues did not impact students taking the test on paper.

Parents of Frenship students affected during today’s testing have been personally notified by their child’s campus administration. At this time, Frenship is waiting for additional guidance from TEA on how to move forward with the students who were unable to complete their tests.

Additionally, the following was sent from the district to the parents of fourth and seventh grade students at Lubbock-Cooper ISD:

Today, Tuesday, April 6, the STAAR Writing Exam was to be administered to Lubbock-Cooper fourth and seventh grade students along with fourth and seventh grade students across the state. This year, the entire test is to be administered online via student iPads.

The ETS app, the platform through which the test is administered, is experiencing technical difficulties and is spontaneously removing students from the exam or not allowing access at all. This is a statewide issue, and is not controlled by the district.

The Texas Education Agency has canceled testing for the day while ETS works to resolve issues. The rescheduled date has not yet been determined, but we will keep you updated as this situation evolves.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

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