Changes made to Texas standardized tests to avoid glitches

DALLAS (AP) -- Revamped technical efforts and nearly $20 million in improvements should help avoid prior glitches as standardized testing begins this week, Texas Education Agency officials say.

The upgrades are meant to solve previous online problems with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. The exams help determine whether students get promoted or graduate, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Glitches happened last March during the first year that New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service administered the Texas exams as part of a $280 million contract awarded in 2015. The problems affected more than 14,000 students who either had their answers erased or were given the wrong test versions. Other issues included delivery mix-ups and scoring problems, state officials said.

Penny Schwinn, the TEA deputy commissioner of academics, said the vendor has worked with the state over the last year to address key issues.

"I don't think anyone ever expects things to go 100 percent right on anything," Schwinn said. "But what we have done is put in place a number of safeguards and a large amount of resources to help."

Educational Testing Service significantly boosted its server capabilities to handle large volumes. Delivery and tracking systems were redesigned so that Texas officials could better locate testing materials as well as private student information, some of which was sent to the wrong districts last year.

State officials required the testing company to pay fines and institute improvements.

The company worked with Texas and school district personnel to make sure this year is successful, according to an Educational Testing Service official.

"Our shared mission in Texas is to provide students, educators and parents meaningful information through the best assessments and services possible," spokesman Thomas Ewing said. "We hope the results of our work will tell that story for us."

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com
   AP-WF-03-26-17 1847GMT

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