Computer-based ELA testing to resume Thursday, after problems on Tuesday

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State testing is scheduled to pick back up again on Thursday, April 4, for schools and students who had problems with ELA tests this week. It’s a situation Dr. Mark Potter is familiar with at the Liverpool Central School District.

He and many others in the state had issues with the online ELA testing last year, too. Knowing that, Potter made plans Tuesday, April 2, to try and avoid yet another system failure.

“Intentionally, we decided to stagger some of our grade levels, thinking maybe it’s just an accessibility issue, meaning there’s too many kids trying to get on in New York State,” said Mark Potter, Superintendent of the Liverpool Central School District.

The same testing software is being used this year — known as Questar.

Still, kids had trouble logging into that system and submitting their exams. Though most schools in the Liverpool district eventually finished their tests, one elementary school didn’t get to it.

“When things aren’t smooth sometimes it rises the level of anxiety both for students, families, parents, teachers, the school. And that seems to add to some of the issues,” Potter said.

The main issue, as Potter predicted, turns out to be that too many people were using Questar at one time.

The Commissioner of Education, MaryEllen Elia, responded to the problem with a statement.

“There is no excuse for the difficulties experienced by schools administering computer-based testing…we are holding questar accountable for its failure to deliver the services required in our contract with them.” Elia said.

Questar Assessment Inc. Chief Operating Officer, Brad Baumgartner, also responded with the following statement.

“We understand the frustration, and our team has been working around the clock to ensure New York schools can resume computer-based testing as soon as possible. We have consulted with respected outside firms and have wasted no time implementing their recommendations. As such, testing will resume Thursday. Of the 93,100 total students who started tests on Tuesday, 93 percent of, or 86,500, students who started testing sessions successfully completed and submitted their tests that day. Questar Assessment Inc. is committed to the students, teachers and school districts of New York State, and we take our responsibility to provide accurate and insightful testing results seriously.”

Still, many are concerned this may happen again.

“My desire and hope is that it does work because we do need something to evaluate, are we doing what we said we would do. Which is educate all of our communities children,” Potter said.

The state is allowing schools to take the second part of the exam on Friday. However, they’re asking districts to stagger the schedule — including only grades five and eight. If those grades have already taken the test, the commisioner said districts can chose one other grade for April 4 and April 5.

The New York State United Teachers is pleading for the state to stop computer-based testing immediatley.

The union released a statement today saying, 

“In 2018, students, parents and educators were assured that the failures of New York’s computer-based test system for grades 3–8 would not be repeated. This week, we found out that assurance was hollow as testing quickly deteriorated into a chaotic, stressful situation for the entire school community. A stop-gap corrective action plan is far from the significant overhauls that must be made to restore any semblance of trust in the state testing system. Computer-based testing must be halted, and not only should Questar be held accountable for this debacle, the state must be as well.”

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