State officials are threatening to reconsider a $280 million contract with its testing vendor after answers to 14,220 state standardized tests were erased because of a computer glitch last week.
State Education Commissioner Mike Morath had strong words for the New Jersey-based Educational Testing Services, the company that administers the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, during a State Board of Education meeting on Wednesday.
Morath said that many of the tests affected by the glitch March 29 were computerized versions taken by special education students. About 2.3 million Texas public school students took the STAAR last week, most of them in the paper format.
He said the testing company will be held financially liable for the issues and, if they’re not fixed by May, the state will reconsider the contract with the company.
“We are very serious that we have an assessment system that is functional. What happened last week was unacceptable,” Morath said.
Last Tuesday, the first day of STAAR testing, the American-Statesman first reported that at least four school districts in Central Texas — Austin, Hays Consolidated, Hutto and Harper — said that students taking the writing STAAR had received an error message after submitting completed tests online. After logging back in, the students’ multiple choice answers — and in at least in one case, the essay — had disappeared. Students who logged out temporarily for breaks also were affected.
The state later confirmed that districts statewide were experiencing similar problems and that students wouldn’t be penalized for the glitch, leaving it up to the school district to decide whether to retest affected students. Some students were retested, Morath said Wednesday.
Morath also said that, the week before STAAR testing started, some answer booklets were sent to wrong addresses, missing deadlines set by the Texas Education Agency.
This year is the first time that Educational Testing Services, which also produces the Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE, is administering the statewide assessment. The company won the $280 million contract last May after the state dumped Pearson Education, who had been the state’s sole testing vendor for three decades.
Last Tuesday wasn’t the first time that test takers have faced computer glitches. In 2012, Texas students retaking the STAAR had trouble launching the testing system or, if a student took a break, had difficulty logging back on.