Tens of thousands of students across Texas experienced glitches Tuesday morning while taking the STAAR standardized test, the second time problems have been reported with the online platform this year, the Texas Education Agency said.
Several Central Texas school districts were affected, including Austin, Round Rock, Manor, Georgetown, Lake Travis and Hays, officials at those districts said.
In April, students in 1,000 Texas school districts were kicked out of the online State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness for about 20 minutes. On Tuesday, the problems lasted as long as two hours and included frozen screens, slowness, difficulty in starting sessions and getting locked out because of connectivity issues, state education officials said.
The issues began about 9:30 a.m. when as many as 110,000 students in third through eighth grade were taking the reading and social studies portions of the exam.
TEA officials said that it was not a widespread outage and that only some students experienced connectivity problems.
“It was recommended for students having technical issues to stop testing and return to normal academic activities and log back in at a later time,” TEA spokeswoman Ronnie Burchett said. “It is also recommended that if students are not able to complete the test today, these students can continue the test later in the week.”
All issues were resolved by 11:15 a.m., the agency said.
The Austin district said most of its 1,800 test takers were affected by the glitches, including many special education students.
“Given the duration of the outage, AISD campuses have been given the option to suspend online testing for today,” district spokeswoman Cristina Nguyen said Tuesday. “Students will be able to complete the test tomorrow unless they are scheduled to take the science test tomorrow, in which case they will complete it on Thursday.”
Round Rock district officials said more than 1,300 students at its campuses were affected by the glitches.
In the Lake Travis district, the problems were not as widespread, affecting five campuses and a minimal number of students, officials said. Everyone was able to finish the test Tuesday, spokesman Marco Alvarado said.
Several dozen Hays students were affected, officials said.
“The primary problem was students being logged off of the test and then unable to log back on,” district spokesman Tim Savoy said. “It appears, at this time, that all Hays CISD students were eventually able to complete their tests.”
Students in the Georgetown and Manor districts were also able to finish the test on time, officials said.
Similar problems happened on the first day of STAAR testing April 10, when as many as 40,000 students across the state lost access to the test for about 20 minutes.
After that outage, state Education Commissioner Mike Morath said the TEA would discuss corrective actions with the test’s administrator, New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service.
The agency has not said what came of those conversations and what it would do to address the most recent issues.
“TEA is working with ETS to determine the cause of this slowdown and will provide additional guidance as needed,” the agency said Tuesday.
The STAAR can be used to determine whether students graduate or move on to the next grade. Test results also affect how the state grades districts’ and campuses’ overall performance.
Since ETS began administering the STAAR test in the 2015-16 school year, Texas school districts have experienced a host of problems, including lost answer sheets, tests delivered to the wrong addresses, answer sheets being prefilled with the wrong student information and confidential student data being sent to the wrong districts.
In 2016, the TEA fined the company $21 million after a widespread computer glitch erased students’ answers to 14,200 tests. The testing service was told to fix the problem and make changes by the end of last year, such as redesigning the shipping processes, providing districts with the ability to monitor online tests in real time, creating safeguards to prevent precoding errors and modifying reporting systems to prioritize graduating seniors.