Glitch in STAAR test deletes students answers

Students across Texas are taking their STAAR tests, to measure how much they're learning in their classes. Many kids and their parents have complained that the standardized test causes unnecessary stress.

The Texas Education Agency oversees the STAAR. They have confirmed to FOX 7 that there was a glitch in a computer program that recorded some of those students answers. For the most part, the exams are written. But students with special needs take them on the computer. During Tuesday's tests, when some of them got to the end, much of their work had been erased.

"We try not to concentrate on the test," But it's all Holly Moffitt could think about on Tuesday. "I have 5 kids," she says, "one's in college. The other 4 are all testing today."

Two of them in school at Mathews Elementary in Austin. "I have a couple of kids that are special needs," she adds, "so they're taking the test on a computer or teacher assistance being read to them."

So imagine when she found out that kids using the computers state-wide may have lost all of their hard work. "That could be really detrimental to them if they find out they have to take the test again."

"When I first went it felt scary and nervous," says Moffitt's Fourth Grade daughter MaiMai.

Moffitt explains, "She's been very stressed about it and was in bed last night, trying to eat a huge breakfast this morning because she was taking the writing."

MaiMai had been on a lunch break during her test. When she came back, that's when she realized there was a problem. "There's an exit thing that made us go all the way back and half of my writing on my computer wasn't there."

Maimai isn't alone. Austin ISD says other students in their schools had the same problems. Hays Consolidated says some of their students had issues too. So far, the Hutto School district is reporting one. They say that student's answers were recovered.

"It's very frustrating," Moffitt says, "they work and work for this, especially MaiMai, she gets very nervous about it. And to have to go back and re-do it is very unfortunate."

Moffitt says when it comes to re-testing, "No she won't take it again."

AISD forwarded to Fox 7 the email the T.E.A. sent to the affected districts around the state. They indicate the answers were backed up. The T.E.A. says testing will go on as planned starting Wednesday morning.

The vendor running the tests, New Jersey based E.T.S. has been around for some time, but it's their first year doing so in Texas. Texas company Pearson had their STAAR contract yanked last year. They had been the state's only testing vendor since 1980.

The T.E.A sent FOX 7 a statement addressing the state-wide glitch:

Earlier today, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) became aware of technical issues in a number of districts related to the online administration of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®).

Some districts across the state reported to TEA and Educational Testing Service (ETS), the vendor administering STAAR statewide, that students’ previously selected responses on an online test were not appearing.

This would occur once a student logged back into their online test after either officially logging out, being timed out after 30 minutes of inactivity, or in situations where districts have temporarily lost connectivity to the Internet. Other issues have also been identified.

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath issued the following statement:

The technical issues experienced today during the online administration of STAAR are simply unacceptable. Such issues undermine the hard work of our teachers and students. Kids in the classroom should never suffer from mistakes made by adults. Educational Testing Service is not new to administering assessments on a large-scale basis, so I cannot accept the transition to a new testing vendor as an excuse for what occurred. TEA also shares in the responsibility in the proper administration of these assessments. As an agency, we did not live up to that commitment. TEA will continue working with our school districts, charters and ETS to address these and any other outstanding issues.


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