STAAR testing suspended for Texas students after technical glitch

EL PASO, Texas — Texas education officials advised school districts to suspend the first day of STAAR testing after thousands of students showed up in person and were prevented from taking the standardized test online because of widespread technical issues across the state.

“If your students have been able to access the test, they should continue testing. If your students have not been able to access the test, they should be dismissed from testing until the issue has been resolved,” the message from the Texas Education Agency said.

Texas officials mandated that students take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness in person this year at monitored test sites, although millions of students are still conducting their studies remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The outages affected districts administering the tests online and ranged from slow response times to students being unable to log into the test. Writing tests for fourth and seventh graders were disrupted, as well as English I tests for high schoolers, according to TEA.

The El Paso Independent School District confirmed to ABC-7 that some of its schools experienced issues of students not being able to log-in to complete their exam. Those students were sent home, while others who were able to log-in or take paper tests were allowed to continue, a spokesman for EPISD said.

Elsewhere in the Borderland, the Socorro Independent School District told ABC-7 roughly 1,000 students were unable to take the test, while the Ysleta ISD said about 80 students were impacted. Meanwhile, the San Elizario ISD told ABC-7 that its students were slated to take the exams starting April 20, so they were not affected by Tuesday’s outage.

The TEA said online testing would resume Wednesday, but didn’t provide further details.

“We understand the frustration this has caused students, parents, teachers, and administrators,” the TEA statement said. “What happened today is completely unacceptable.”

Educational Testing Service, one of the companies the state contracts to develop and administer the test, is investigating the issue, according to the TEA message. STAAR tests usually have a four- or five-hour time limit, depending on their subject, and testing is scheduled to occur until May 14.

While the test is required this year, there is no penalty for elementary and middle schooler 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.

Online STAAR testing has faced technical issues before. In 2018, software kicked thousands of students out of the test while it was still going and didn’t let them log back on. In 2016, computer problems statewide affected more than 14,000 tests.

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